COVID-19 and HIV in South Africa
HIV is one of the more prominent killers of Africans with over 400,000 deaths in 2019. A third of all new HIV infections stem from South Africa making it the largest HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic further hindered the medical response to HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Consequently, it set the country back from its five-year plan. Here are three facts about COVID-19 and HIV in South Africa.

South Africa’s Plan to Combat HIV/AIDS

South Africa launched a five-year plan to combat HIV, TB and STIs, spanning from 2017-2022. The National Development Plan (NDP) for the country is to reduce the epidemic as a public health crisis by 2030. As of 2016, South Africa has 3.9 million individuals on antiretroviral therapy (ART). It launched eight goals to combat the spread of HIV.

The first three goals involve reducing the spread and mortality of HIV amongst various communities. The NDP recognizes adolescent girls as the most vulnerable population. It plans to target interventions amongst sex workers, drug users, inmates and members of the LGBT+ community as key populations. Goal 4 discusses the plans to reduce the social and structural drivers of the spread of HIV. This includes social behavior as well as gender-based and sexual violence. The last four goals pertain to the stigma, information, governmental response and resources of HIV prevention.

The original launch of this five-year plan did not account for the possibility of a global pandemic entering the scene. COVID-19 and HIV in South Africa made for a very serious and deadly change for all South African citizens.

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Changed Things

Generally, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the ongoing HIV crisis in South Africa by shifting the priority. There were 57,000 COVID-19 deaths since the country’s first confirmed case on March 5, 2020.

COVID-19 placed immense pressure to socially distance in every country. It put a specific strain on healthcare services in South Africa. Fears of contracting COVID-19 via healthcare facilities slowed down health-related services for HIV patients. Upwards to 80% of South Africans live without medical insurance and rely on the availability of public health services.

The Long-Term Implications for South Africa

Lower-income workers in South Africa face greater rates of unemployment and income loss due to the pandemic. At the same time, impoverished communities are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. This is due to population density and a lack of access to sanitation. Expectations have determined that inequality disparity will worsen as poverty-stricken populations face greater economic hardships and disease infection.

A combination of COVID-19 and HIV in South Africa drastically affected the response of healthcare workers and medical availability. South Africa’s healthcare system was spread thin prior to the pandemic. With COVID-19 receiving medicinal priority, the NDP’s five-year plan for combating HIV ended up set back.

South Africa ordered a total of 31 million vaccine doses from companies Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. The country also entered an agreement with the United Nations to receive another 12 million vaccinations.  This is the first step in order to get the country back on track to combat the HIV epidemic as well as social inequality.

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in South Africa
Known today as the “rainbow nation,” South Africa has a fast-paced economy with a pluralistic and diverse culture and history. However, the ramifications of the apartheid regime still continue to be an impediment to social and economic development and alleviating poverty in South Africa due to its impacts on the social structure, security nets and family life.

Poverty Statistics

Due to the apartheid legacy, income inequality remains prevalent with 1% of the population owning nearly 70.9% of the nation’s wealth. The unemployment rate currently stands at nearly 28% due to the recessionary conditions in the country.

According to a report by the Children’s Institute (CI) at the University of Cape Town, 6 million children still continue to live below the food poverty line. Despite the efforts of the organizations like Child Support grant, the administration in South Africa struggles to deal with the implementation of care arrangements for these children especially those who live in more remote and rural communities.

Failed Economic Reforms

Since the collapse of apartheid in the country, the African National Congress (ANC) party has embarked on a variety of neo-liberal and market reforms to liberalize the trade and commerce of the economy to avoid a potential poverty trap. Yet, these policies exacerbated disparities and inequalities in the economy and cast a great degree of skepticism about mainstream economics and neo-liberal policies centered around deregulation and privatization. Unregulated market approaches to financial flows and capital were a breeding ground for corruption and bribery among top levels of state and private institutions in the country, particularly during the era of President Jacob Zuma.

Government Actions

However, along with the continued efforts from the Child Support Grant and similar outreach programs, a deeper collaboration between families and the state is being recommended as a solution to the problem. Under the policy, more than 12 million children benefit every month. Access to more information about relevant childcare arrangements and health care programs will also be effective in improving awareness among families.

Moreover, state income support is being recommended to decrease inequalities measured in Gini values from 0.69 to 0.6 and to decrease the number of people who live on a monthly income lower than $30 from 39% to zero. The implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) is a government agenda that aims to address poverty in South Africa by allocating budgets and improving public services and infrastructure by 2030.

Chances for Growth

Under the administration of new President Cyril Ramaphosa, the country is implementing investments in more ambitious infrastructure projects. Expectations have determined that foreign investment from countries like China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates could be worth a collective $100 billion.

Furthermore, education reform is vital to not only address poverty in South Africa but also to help townships progress from the apartheid-era Bantu education system, which was an aspect of the law that enforced racial segregation in schools. Yet, efforts to change the current situation are underway, with an increase in pre-school enrollment and the number of university graduates.

In 2011, the multidimensional poverty index emerged to better analyze poverty in South Africa and recommend sustainable solutions for remediating some of its associated issues. One can now assess a combination of social indicators like education, health care and quality of life. Fortunately, under this poverty index, there was a decline in poverty by more than 13% between the years 2001 and 2011. The sample could improve further by combining a series of other factors like financial, transport and other assets as well.

To conclude, even though South Africa continues to be a modern economically developing country grappling with problems from a complicated history, a strong foundation will yield good progress in the long run and help the country overcome its many economic and social challenges.

– Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr