HIV shows an increase among youth

SA has an active lobby in the HIV/Aids sector but Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has bemoaned the rejection of his plan years ago to make condoms available at schools.
SA has an active lobby in the HIV/Aids sector but Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has bemoaned the rejection of his plan years ago to make condoms available at schools.
Image: Foto24/Gallo Images

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has blamed parents for the high HIV infection levels among young people, saying he was criticised when he tried to distribute condoms to schools in 2012 as part of an HIV/Aids awareness drive.

The Human Sciences Research Council's SA National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey for 2017 released in Pretoria yesterday found that the rate of infection stood at 7.9% in the 15-24 age category.

According to Professor Khangelani Zuma, executive director of the Hast
research programme at the HSRC, the figure consistently declined between 2005 and 2012, with the 2017 figure increasing from 7.1 to 7.9%.

Motsoaledi said had parents cooperated with his call for distribution of condoms at schools back then, the results would have been different.

"[Parents] said our kids know nothing and you will start teaching them a lot [of] all these negativities of society, look where it has got [us] now.

"I told parents whether we like it or not, these kids are not waiting for us to teach them at school. They already know, they are already doing it anyway," Motsoaledi said.

The minister said it took his department three years to convince parents to allow condoms into schools, saying although parents have finally agreed with this policy, which was approved by parliament last year, he doubted that parents would cooperate.

"I appeal to our parents to allow us into schools. That policy was approved by cabinet last year. So, it took us a very long time. But, while parents agreed, they do not easily
cooperate. We are still very conservative," Motsoaledi said.

The study found the HIV incidence rate was higher among females in the 15-24 age group, with the number of new infections three times those of their male counterparts.

New HIV infections have declined significantly over the past five years, with the HIV incidence rate of 0.48% observed last year compared to the infection rate of 0.85% in 2012.

The survey recorded an estimated 231100 new HIV infections in 2017, a decline of 44% from 2012.

The SA National Aids Council (Sanac) welcomed the decrease but its chairman Steve Letsike said "we are moving at a snail's pace.

"We have to reduce this new infections figure to 88000 by 2020... will we reach that
target? We need to target young people. We need to target men to reach this goal."

Roughly, 7.9million people South Africans were living with HIV last year.

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