News / Africa

South Africa Reports Progress in Fighting HIV/AIDs

A giant condom inflates over the exhibition stands at Nasrec Exhibition Center, Johannesburg, South Africa, August 2002. (AP Photo/Obed Zilwa)
A giant condom inflates over the exhibition stands at Nasrec Exhibition Center, Johannesburg, South Africa, August 2002. (AP Photo/Obed Zilwa)
South Africa has made significant gains in the past decade in the fight against HIV/ AIDS. While it still has the largest number of people living with the virus, the country has seen a significant drop in new infections and a decline in the number of HIV/AIDS related deaths.  

Sakhiwo Hobo picks up his medicine from the counter and walks away. It only takes him an hour to see a doctor and get his treatment renewed at the Themba Lethu Clinic in Johannesburg, one of the biggest HIV/AIDS centers in South Africa.  

Hobo discovered four years ago that he was HIV positive.

"The first thing is shock. Fear of death, even though you're not dying at the moment, but it always is there," he said, explaining what he thought about when he found out. "So it's shock, and fear, and everything. But when you start learning about it, people start taking you through for counseling, then you know what you're dealing with."

Stigma remains

Hobo is not an isolated case. And although Hobo was diagnosed early, there is still a stigma in South Africa regarding HIV/AIDS, and this sometimes prevents people from coming early to test, says medical manager Itumeleng Mottoung.

"I think the biggest problem is stigma. Firstly people don't want to test. And once they test, they actually wish the disease away instead of taking the necessary steps of maybe following up to see if they are qualified for treatment," said Mottoung. "So basically it is a problem of stigma."

So to tackle that, the government launched HIV counselling and testing campaigns in public health facilities. In less than two years, some 20 million people have been tested.

Joe Maila, spokeperson for the Ministry of Health, explains the importance of people knowing their status.

"We've realized there is more to be done with people not knowing their status," he said. "Because we think that once you know your status, you'll be able to take extra precautionary measures to make sure that if you do not have HIV at that time, you do not have it. And then if you do have it, then you'll be able to protect people around you."

Prevention

Protecting people around you applys strongly in the case of pregnant women. In 2005, the rate at which HIV positive mothers transmitted the virus to their baby was of 8.5 percent. Today, it has decreased by threefold, down to 2.7 percent according to the Actuarial Society of South Africa.

This is also due to implementation by the government of wide-scale distribution of antiretroviral drugs, also known as ARV.  The goverment says there are nearly two million people taking ARV in South Africa, 10 times more than in in 2005.

It seems a long way from the days when former president Thabo Mbeki was promoting a treatment of beetroot and garlic, or when current president Jacob Zuma said he would take a shower to get rid of the disease. Before them, former president Nelson Mandela himself was slow to acklowledge the scale of HIV/AIDS in the country. South Africa was lambasted by the international community for its lack of action but now seems determined to seriously tackle HIV.

Challenges

But the South African government's Joe Maila says there are still challenges, especially when it comes to young people and prevention.

"I think we need just to make sure that our young people also take the message seriously. The message of prevention is very important," explained Maila. "Prevention is better than cure. We continue to tell our people that HIV and AIDS do not have a cure, and therefore the best cure is to prevent that from happening."

The struggle is far from being over.   Unsafe sex continues to take place.  The Mail and Guardian newspaper reports as of 2009, there were still, on average, 935 new HIV infections in South Africa every day and the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women at that time remained at 30 percent.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More