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#WorldAIDSDay: High levels of infection in young girls & women

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has told EWN an increase in infections is the result of numerous factors.

FILE. Today marks World AIDS Day. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says violence directed at young girls and women and persistent patriarchy play a role in the high level of infections in South Africa.

Motsoaledi has told Eyewitness News that an increase in infections within the most vulnerable group is the result of numerous factors, including young girls dating older men.

Today marks World AIDS Day.

Research shows that in sub-Saharan Africa young girls and women, particularly between the ages of 15 and 24, are four times more likely to contract HIV than their male counterparts.

During 'Fees Must Fall' protests in October some students carried posters saying things like, 'Zuma, there aren't enough sugar daddies'.

But beneath the jokes lies a serious problem.

The Soul City Institute's Susan Goldstein said, "People are really poor. So, come transactional sex, people actually get that. And peoples' families encourage it."

Motsoaledi says his department is aware of this, but there are many issues at play.

He says a campaign called 'Dream' has been launched and is aimed at dealing with infection rates among girls and women.

ARVs

Concerns have been raised that while more people are living longer thanks to antiretroviral medication, this may burden the country's health system in the near future.

More than 3 million people in South Africa are currently receiving ARV treatment.

The Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI) says infected people are being treated in the early stages after contracting the virus.

The institute's professor Helen Rees said, "That means that we're going to have to sustain more and more people on antiretrovirals and everyone is living longer with HIV. But the burden on the health service is going to grow.

WATCH: EWN talks to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi about World AIDS Day and why it's still relevant.

HIV TREATMENT PROGRAMME

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa, with the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world, is an example of the country's commitment to achieving an aids-free generation.

Ramaphosa has urged South African's to build on the progress that has already been made around HIV and AIDS education and treatment.

He says social awareness has helped reduce the stigma once associated with the virus and is seeing more people accessing treatment.

Ramaphosa says South Africa now needs to work on strengthening prevention measures and encouraging more people to know their HIV status.

To read 10 facts about HIV/AIDS, _ click here_.

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