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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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