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- Living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa
Posted by : Minimoo Tuesday, 1 December 2015
HIV (the virus that causes AIDS - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is transmitted primarily via unprotected sexual intercourse (including anal and oral sex), contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy. However, there are many social factors that contribute to the spread of HIV, including poverty, inequality and social instability, high levels of sexually transmitted infections, sexual violence and limited access to quality medical care.
South Africa has come a long way since HIV/AIDS was first recognised by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981. Since then, the nation’s fight against the virus has been unyielding in its goal to minimise the atrocious effects it has on those who have contracted the disease.
In 2010, South Africa increased the efficiency of its Antiretroviral Treatment Programmes, with further expansions implemented in January 2015 to bring South Africa up to date with World Health Organisation treatment guidelines.
Although the amount of people with HIV/AIDS has risen from 4.02 million in 2002 to 6.19 million (11.2% of the population) in 2015, the infection rate is declining, especially for those people between the age of 15 and 49.
In 2015, Stats SA estimated that 162 445 people had died from AIDS-related diseases. This translates to 30.5% of the total number of deaths, compared to a staggering 44.6% in 2002. The
life expectancy for people with the disease is also increasing to an average of 62.5 years, an increase of 9.1 years since 2004.
But, more than their health being affected, people with HIV/AIDS have to live with the stigma and denial related to the infection. Fear and despair often causes a delay in testing, causing the virus to spread even further. Many people are abandoned by their families or partners when diagnosed, job and property loss occur, school expulsion and denial of medical services.
Former President Nelson Mandela said: “Many people suffering from AIDS and not killed by the disease itself are killed by the stigma surrounding everybody who has HIV and AIDS.”
World AIDS Day is an opportunity for us to remind people of the seriousness of the disease, and to increase awareness. On this day South Africa aims to educate and inform the general public of HIV/AIDS in order to fight prejudice and discrimination towards those infected.
We support this programme, and in order to show our support, we bring you 5 important facts about HIV/AIDS that you should be aware of:
- HIV infects the immune system, decreasing the body’s ability to fight off infections and other diseases.
- HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sex, transmission of infected blood, sharing infected needles or other sharp instruments, and from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
- The best ways to prevent contraction of the virus is through safe sexual activity (using condoms during sex), getting tested for HIV and other STI’s regularly, avoiding sharing needles and syringes and ensuring any blood products you may need is tested for HIV.
- More than 35 million people live with HIV worldwide.
- Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) prevents the HIV virus from multiplying in the body, giving the body’s immune cells the ability to live longer and provide the body with protection from infections.