'Can I have a flavoured condom‚ please?' HIV infections decline as campaigns pay off

 HIV infections decline as campaigns pay off.
HIV infections decline as campaigns pay off.
Image: 123RF/ Marco Herrndorff

South Africa has made considerable progress against HIV/Aids‚ with a marked decline in the number of new infections since 2009.

However‚ an intensified campaign is needed to sustain the gains‚ the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) said.

Research from the institute showed that the total number of new HIV infections declined countrywide by 39% – from 437‚705 to 266‚931 – between 2009 and 2016.

IRR analyst Tawanda Makombo said the high rate of new HIV infections – a daunting feature of Thabo Mbeki’s presidency – declined under his successor‚ Jacob Zuma.

He said this was largely as a result of improved HIV/Aids awareness and campaigning strategies in schools‚ hospitals and communities.

He said at present‚ condom distribution‚ particularly at universities‚ had intensified to such an extent that students even demanded that they be supplied with flavoured varieties.

The IRR said KwaZulu-Natal‚ which had the highest rate of new HIV infections in 2009 (121‚308)‚ achieved a drastic reduction of almost 50% to 62‚117 in 2016. It said Gauteng’s rate of new infections fell by 27.6% – from 102‚074 in 2009 to 73‚951 in 2016 – but it had the highest number of new infections of all nine provinces.

The Northern Cape showed the biggest improvement between 2009 and 2016‚ with a 57.6% drop in new HIV infections‚ from 5‚557 to 2‚356.

Makombo said there was still room for improvement.

“The national department of health must intensify HIV/Aids awareness among all South Africans in order to reduce the risk of infection in those at highest risk‚ especially young people.”

He said civil society should be more involved in education and support programmes in the fight against HIV and Aids.