SA not doing enough about Aids

18 July 2006 04:33

South Africa is not doing enough to address the Aids pandemic, the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) said on Tuesday.

"It is very disturbing that other countries in sub-Saharan Africa have managed to reduce their Aids statistics while South Africa continues to have the highest HIV infection rate," SAIRR researcher Marco MacFarlane said in a statement.

"The World Health Organisation estimates that of all countries in sub-Saharan Africa for which reliable data is available, South Africa is the only one in which the epidemic is still increasing."

He said the latest statistics revealed that 5,4-million people in South Africa were infected, and that two million South Africans will have died due to the pandemic by July 2006.

Based on this, MacFarlane questioned the policies of the Department of Health.

"The Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, recently stated in the [African National Congress online publication] ANC Today that the United Nations had emphasised poverty reduction and prevention of infection in the fight against HIV/Aids.

"This, according to the minister, has been the basis of the South African government's response to HIV and Aids all along," he said.

"While these elements are unquestionably important in the fight against HIV/Aids, it is misguided to celebrate the vindication of government policy in this arena."

MacFarlane questioned the statistics used by the minister of health.

"It is ominously significant that figures for the public sector are only for patients that enrol to receive ARVs [antiretroviral drugs], and do not represent those who are actually on treatment.

"The minister of health insisted in her budget speech in May 2006 that infant and under-five mortality rates have fallen since 1998, but the latest figures from Stats SA show a 73% increase in the number of deaths in that age group between 1997 and 2004," he said.

"She also said deaths in the age group 30 to 35 -- the group which is most likely to have progressed to full-blown Aids infection -- have increased by 207 percent in these seven years.

"These are statistics that indicate a population in the grip of an epidemic," MacFarlane said.

He said by 2011, more people will die of Aids in South Africa than all other causes of death combined.

"One of the ways of dealing with the pandemic will be for the government to rapidly and quickly step up the ARV programme. The Actuarial Society of South Africa estimates that there are just over 500 000 adults in South Africa who need ARVs but are not receiving them," MacFarlane said

The Department of Health was not immediately available to comment.

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