In an eye-opening presentation by the Eastern Cape health department it was revealed that South Africa consumes a massive 25% of the world’s supply of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). 17% of the world’s HIV-positive people live in South Africa, and the number of citizens dying every year in the country has doubled in the past 10 years.
The presentation also revealed that South Africa had the highest “health burden per capita” of any middle-income country in the world. This takes into account all deaths from HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, violence and injury, non-communicable diseases, and maternal and newborn deaths. The costs of providing free health care to all are HUGE, hence it’s essential that we reduce infections so that we can reduce treatment costs.
According to The Lancet, the world’s leading general medical journal, South Africa, with a population of 48 million people, makes up only 0.8% of the world’s population of almost seven billion... yet we consume 25% of ARVs!
Despite these shocking figures, however, HIV prevalence has stabilised in South Africa.
“We are one of only two countries in the world where the spread of the virus has stopped growing,” said the DoH’s Dr Silva Pillay. The other is Botswana. The Eastern Cape’s HIV infection rate was sixth in the nine provinces, with the leading provinces being KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
Nelson Mandela Bay topped the provincial list of infections, with 30.7% of its population infected with HIV. This was followed by O R Tambo district (29.8%) and then Amathole district (27.2%), which includes Buffalo City metro. Pillay said the country had turned the tide on the virus as education measures kicked in.
Reaffirming a figure highlighted in the Daily Dispatch’s “Dead on Arrival investigation, Pillay said that “57% of deaths of children under the age of 5 during 2007 were as a result of HIV/Aids”. “That is where we need to concentrate our efforts to curb the effects,” he said.
Even though HIV prevalence rates in South Africa are high, I see the stabilisation of the infection rate as promising. It shows that the country is doing something right to stem the spread of the pandemic. The Mbeki administrations years of denial meant that effective measures were not put into place in time, which meant that the DoH has had a huge battle to fight. Implementation of more HIV/Aids strategies are still needed to further improve the situation improve the situation.
Sources: Daily Dispatch, Eastern Cape Department of Health.