Rise in condom use among SA teens results in significant drop in HIV rates


SOUTH AFRICA could be about to turn the corner in its long and politically treacherous fight against Aids, according to a new report.

The number of new HIV infections among the country’s teenagers has dropped significantly due to condom use, giving rare hope to the country with the world’s biggest HIV-positive population.

“There is clearly light at the end of the tunnel,” said South African health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. “There is real light.”

New infections among 18-year-olds halved between 2005 and 2008 to 0.8 per cent, according to the survey by South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council. In 20-year-olds it fell from 2.2 per cent to 1.7 per cent.

Olive Shisana, one of the authors of the report, said this was because of an increase in condom use among young males aged between 15 and 24, from 57 per cent in 2002 to 87 per cent in 2008. In females of the same age there was also an increase of condom use, from 46 per cent to 73 per cent. “The finding shows that, although more young people are running around, they are doing it with a condom,” she said.

The report also said that HIV prevalence in children between two and 14 fell from 5.6 per cent in 2002 to 2.5 per cent last year, mainly thanks to the spread of drugs to prevent women passing on the virus to their children.

But the overall level of HIV infection in those aged two and over, at 10.9 per cent, had changed little. In 2002 it was 10.8 per cent and in 2005 it was 11.4 per cent.

Figures published in 2007 suggested almost 1,000 people were dying from Aids every day.

The council’s report estimated that about 5.2 million South Africans were living with HIV last year. This is widely regarded as a disastrous legacy of former president Thabo Mbeki, who questioned the link between HIV and the disease, and his health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who mistrusted conventional anti-Aids drugs and promoted beetroot and lemon.

Dr Motsoaledi, who became health minister last month, said: “Unfortunately we spent a lot of time fighting each other. I am quite sure that we are going to stop fighting each other and start fighting the disease. I am hoping that in the next few years the results will be much more encouraging than this.”

Young women continue to bear the brunt of the epidemic, according to the survey of 20,826 people. Almost one-third of women aged 20 to 34 are infected with the virus. – ( Guardianservice)