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Survey reveals South Africa has highest new infection rate globally

Friday, 4 April, 2014

South Africa’s HIV incidence rate soared in 2012 according to the recently released Human Sciences Research Council's (HSRC) National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey. An estimated 400,00 people were newly infected with HIV in 2012, giving South Africa the highest HIV incidence in the world. While the country’s antiretroviral (ARV) programme doubled its reach between 2008 and 2012, stabilising the condition for many people living with HIV (PLHIV), the rate at which new infections are occurring is a worrying trend.

The survey estimates that 6.4 million people are currently living with HIV in South Africa, with numbers highest among women in the 30-34 age bracket and among men aged 35-39. However, new HIV infections are being witnessed increasingly among younger people, and among girls in particular. HIV incidence among girls aged 15-24 is four times higher than their male counterparts, while among teenagers the rate is estimated to be eight times higher. This has been attributed in part to the prevalence of sexual relationships between young girls and older men.

While the elevated HIV infection rate in South Africa has been linked to an increase in risky behaviour – condom use has decreased among men and women of all age groups apart from females over 50 – it also relates to a higher number of people accessing treatment. Increased ARV take-up has enabled PLHIV to live longer healthier lives, leading to a higher proportion of the population living with the virus.