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Healthcare in South Africa
With a population of 57.78 million people and with approximately 49.2% of the adult population living below the poverty line, AIDS and healthcare in South Africa are two of the country’s main issues. In particular, the unequal distribution of healthcare resources has worsened the country’s fight against HIV and AIDS. During recent years, South Africa has begun to take steps toward change. Here are five facts about the AIDS and healthcare crisis in South Africa.

5 Facts About AIDS and Healthcare in South Africa

  1. Systems of Healthcare in South Africa: South Africa’s healthcare system is severely divided between the public and private sectors. The public sector (the healthcare provided by government funding) covers about 84% of the population. In South Africa, 70% of doctors work in the private sector, as people who can afford private healthcare tend to pay better, and private doctors have access to better resources. Furthermore, per capita expenditure in the private sector, or the cost per person, was about $1,400 in 2014, while per capita expenditure in the public sector was about $140. For comparison, the United States’ per capita healthcare expenditure is about $11,200.
  2. Rural vs. Urban Communities: As in many countries, there is significant inequality in access to healthcare between rural and urban communities. In South Africa, people living in rural areas tend to rely on public healthcare. Unfortunately, there is an inadequate number of trained healthcare professionals in the public sector. A study conducted in 2002 revealed that urban areas of South Africa were more likely to have higher percentages of HIV infections. However, as a result of the inequality of healthcare, people in rural South Africa were two times less likely to receive testing for HIV or AIDs.
  3. AIDS Epidemic: In South Africa, 7.7 million people live with AIDS, the highest case rate in the world. About 20% of the world’s HIV cases are in South Africa, and within the country, about 60% of women have HIV. Even in areas in which testing is available, many choose not to partake, as they are afraid of receiving a positive result. A lack of resources, including education for young people and proper training for healthcare workers, has created issues surrounding awareness of the disease, proper diagnosis and access to PrEP. This drug reduces the possibility of infection by 99%.
  4. ART Program AID: In 2003, South Africa rolled out the largest Antiretroviral Treatment plan (ART) in the world. Offered through the public sector, ART serves as the primary HIV intervention for both children and adults. An important aspect of its implementation was affordability, as only 13.7% of South Africans have medical insurance. With the help of CDC South Africa, government facilities and mission hospitals, more people were able to access and benefit from the program.
  5. The Good News: ART has proved to be successful, as adult HIV deaths peaked in 2006, with 231,000 deaths, and then decreased dramatically. In 2014 there were 95,000 deaths, which was a reduction of 74.7%. In total, from the very beginning of the program in 2003 to 2014, the ART program reduced HIV adult deaths by an estimated 1.72 million, a clear positive trend. Most recently, in 2018, 71,000 people died from AIDs-related illness, which was a 50% decrease from 2010. Furthermore, 62% of people with HIV had access to treatment. 87% of pregnant women with AIDs also received antiretroviral medication, preventing 53,000 HIV infections in newborn babies. These statistics are all improvements from previous years.

While there is still work to be done to improve AIDS and healthcare in South Africa, much progress has been made. Increased funding and support for new programs and access to antiretroviral medication have had a significant impact. Moving forward, it is essential that these programs expand their efforts to further reduce deaths caused by HIV and AIDS.

Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr