SA records drop in new HIV infections

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Colleta Dewa

Johannesburg - The Human Science Research Council of South Africa has revealed that the number of new HIV Infections in South Africa has dropped significantly in the past five years.

According to a survey done by the organisation, in 2012 the number of new infections was close to 400,000 people while latest research shows that last year, the figure had dropped to 230,000 new infections, a 44% drop.

This is the fifth survey conducted in the country since 2002.

The survey indicated that KwaZulu-Natal still has the highest number of people living with HIV followed by Mpumalanga and the Free State.

It was also revealed that while there is a drop in the number of new HIV infections compared to 2012, more people are living with HIV.

There is still a high HIV prevalence among young females compared to their male peers according to the survey.

There are extremely low levels of consistent condom use among sexually active people and many of those interviewed have reported having their first sexual experience before the age of 15.

Dr Mpumi Zungu, from the HSRC's HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB (HAST) Research Programme, and a co-principal investigator (PI) of the survey said the issue of behaviour change was not much though the report was promising.

"It is concerning to find very little behavior change seems to have occurred since 2012. This suggests that most of the reduction in new infections was likely due to the impact of the expanded ARV treatment programme," she said.

Dr Sizulu Moyo of the HAST Research Programme, and one of the co-PIs of the study, said the survey had found that more than 60% or an estimated 4.4 million people living with HIV were on antiretroviral treatment (ART).

"This suggests that progress is being made in increasing ART coverage, however, more needs to be done to link those who test HIV positive to care as soon as they are tested, in line with the current policy of test and treat," said Moyo.

The survey also found that there has been an increase in the number of men who have been medically circumcised.

The results have largely been welcomed by government and funders

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