South Africa’s HIV Prevalence Rises as New Infections Increase

South Africa’s HIV prevalence rose in the four years since 2008 due to 1.2 million new infections and the expansion of treatment for existing patients, according to a survey carried out by the Human Sciences Research Council.

About 12.2 percent of South Africans, or 6.4 million people, were infected with the virus that causes AIDS in 2012, compared with 10.6 percent four years ago, according to the survey of more than 38,000 people. The expansion of the world’s biggest antiretroviral treatment program has helped existing patients to live longer, it said.

“The increased prevalence of HIV in 2012 is largely due to the combined effects of new infections and a successfully expanded ART programme,” the Pretoria-based council said yesterday. “The latter has increased survival among HIV-infected individuals.”

The government aims to cut the number of new infections by 50 percent by 2016. South Africa was criticized for initially failing to tackle the epidemic under former President Thabo Mbeki, who disputed the causal link between HIV and AIDS and delayed the provision of treatment.

The government offers medication to more than 2.2 million people. Antiretroviral treatment has almost doubled since 2008 to reach 31.2 percent, according to the council.

HIV prevalence among the 15-49 year age group was 18.8 percent and was higher among women, at 23.2 percent, compared with 14.5 percent for men, the survey found.

AIDS claimed the lives of 240,000 South Africans in 2012, according to a report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

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