More people living with HIV in SA

HIV prevalence between the ages of 15-49 in South Africa has increased.

A beaded AIDS-awareness ribbon. Picture: Stock.XCHNG

CAPE TOWN - The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa has increased despite the world figures going down.

According to the latest global report by UNAIDS, new HIV infections among adults and adolescents fell by 50 percent or more in 26 countries over the past decade.

However, HIV prevalence between the ages of 15-49 in South Africa has increased by 0.6 percent. The number of those living with the virus has also increased by a million.

Director at the Centre for Aids Development, Research and Evaluation and Research Dr Laura Myers told The Redi Tlhabi Show that there are various factors which determine the high prevalence.

"One factor as to why prevalence is still high here as well as the total number of people living with the virus has a lot to do with the number of people on antiretroviral treatment in the country which has increased.

"I think about 2.5 people are on HIV treatment and that means AIDS related deaths have also fallen. Because people are on treatment they are living a lot longer and that is why we have a very large population that is still living and we see that life expectancy has increased and treatment plays a bigger role in that."

However, it was revealed last week that more people are defaulting on their HIV treatment.

More than 4,400 people have defaulted in their treatment in Gauteng alone.

Myers says systematic challenges are also responsible for people defaulting on HIV treatment.

"Issues such as access to treatment, we know that in the Eastern Cape as well, recently there have been big problems in getting clinics supplied with treatment. When that happens it's a systematic issue that is quite major."

"However, it is critical in terms of prevention that people who are positive are on treatment and stay on it because there are huge benefits that if people are taking their treatment regularly, then it makes it very unlikely that they would transmit the virus to anyone else.

"So when people default there are certainly major risks to their own health as it makes future treatment more difficult as the body builds up resistance, but also makes it more likely that they would transmit the virus to other sexual partners than if they were on treatment."

According to the National HIV Household Survey for 2012 about 6.4 million people in South Africa are living with HIV.