News / Africa

South Africa: At Least 5 Million New HIV Infections Expected Over next 20 years


Joe DeCapua

A new report says South Africa can expect to have at least five million new HIV infections over the next 20 years.  That’s nearly the same number of people currently living with the disease in the country.

The report was released by the aids2031 South Africa Project.  It outlines for the first time Africa’s “difficult long-term choices and escalating costs” in battling the epidemic.

Collaborating on the findings were the Cape Town-based Center for the Economic Governance on AIDS in Africa and the Washington-based Results for Development Institute.

Robert Hecht, one of the authors and also managing director of the Results for Development Institute, says, “For South Africa, five million infections over the next 20 years is going to be a heavy toll, a heavy burden.”

It translates, he says, into 250,000 new HIV infections every year.

“You have to remember South Africa is a country that already has nearly six million people that are HIV positive,” he says.

Best-case scenario

Hecht warns, though, things could become much worse.

South Africa: At Least 5 Million New HIV Infections Expected Over next 20 years
South Africa: At Least 5 Million New HIV Infections Expected Over next 20 years

“The scenario or the future where there are five million new infections is actually an optimistic scenario because we also explored in our work with the South Africans possibilities for the future that are much worse.  If South Africa were to basically maintain its prevention and treatment programs at the levels where they are today, there could be as many as 11 million new infections over the next two decades,” he says.

The report says South Africa currently has about 500,000 new infections every year.

What needs to be done

Hecht says to keep new HIV infections as low as possible the South African government needs to maintain the political will over the pandemic that it’s shown in recent years.

“Secondly,” he says, “there’s going to need to be some leadership and efforts to promote social change in South Africa, so that some of the underlying sexual behaviors that are spreading HIV can change gradually.”

What’s more, the report calls on the government to take a long-term view on the money it spends on HIV/AIDS, rather than taking a “crisis approach.”

Hecht says, “It’s going to have to look carefully at how it can spend its money better.  Target that money on the prevention services that are going to be most effective; and make sure that its treatment program, which is already the largest in the world, is absolutely as efficient as possible.”

There are about one million people in South Africa receiving anti-retroviral drugs.

The cost

Holding the expected number of new infections won’t come cheap.  South Africa currently spends about (US)$2 billion annually on HIV/AIDS.

Hecht says that figure will “need to rise very dramatically over the next eight to 10 years.  We estimate in our report that under this maximum effort scenario, the one that would bring down the epidemic most rapidly, South Africa’s total spending would have to more than double…to somewhere between $4 and $5 billion.”

While South Africa would have to pay for most of the new AIDS funding, support would probably be needed from PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Hecht says the discovery of a highly effective vaccine would be a “game changer.”  However, he adds, “We don’t see on the horizon in the next few years…such a vaccine coming along.  So, while we need to keep investing in that area, it’s not something that’s going to have an impact on the epidemic in South Africa in the next five or 10 years.”

You May Like

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs