AIDS is a set of symptoms caused by a virus known as human immunodeficiency virus. This virus induces a state of immune deficiency that leaves the body defenseless against many infections. As, a result, the body becomes susceptible to many viruses and bacteria. The prevalence rate of HIV has been found to be the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. The key cause for this is the high poverty index of people and the levels of illiteracy in the region. The consequence of this is being unaware of transmitting of the virus and inability to afford or access the antiretroviral therapy. This essay seeks to analyze AIDS in South Africa based on United Nations Millennium Development Goal number six. Specifically, it is focused on the efforts made by South Africa towards achieving this Millennium Development Goal. Hopefully, it will highlight the challenges faced by South Africa in her quest to create a HIV free society.
Challenges, associated with HIV and AIDS, have been made a health priority both regionally and globally. The HIV prevalence rate among adults living in Sub-Saharan Africa was found to be about five percent, in comparison to a global prevalence rate of about one percent. HIV and AIDS have impacted badly on the on the socio-economic development across the continent, and South Africa has not been spared either. This epidemic has negatively affected the life expectancy, families, livelihoods and economic growth in South Africa. Many children have been left orphans after the death of their parents caused by AIDS. As a result, they have become helpless economically and are normally prone to social stigmatization. It has made them turn to theft and other related crimes to fulfill their needs. High incidences of tuberculosis infections have also been found in HIV infected people, posing a challenge towards eradicating the virus completely.
According to report released in 2010 by a body, which reviews South African health, about nine hundred South Africans succumbed to AIDS and related ailments on a daily basis in that year. Moreover, the rate of new infections increased to about 1100 from 900. This report highlights the drawbacks encountered by South Africa towards achieving United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Amongst these challenges, it is noted that South Africa is yet to achieve the aim of ensuring universal antiretroviral medication therapy for the affected people by 2010. This was despite the fact that South Africa’s antiretroviral therapy program was the largest in the world. Furthermore, the report indicates that South Africa would continue struggling in its effort to prevent new infections and eradicate the virus by 2015. It was also noted that neonatal and postnatal mortality had been doubled over the past two decades, achieving a peak of 63 deaths per 1000 of births. This value began leveling off in 2007, but failed to decline (Malan, 2006).
One of the major causes of maternal and child mortality in South Africa is HIV. It is deemed as the main reason behind the upward trend in maternal and neonatal mortality rates. In fact, a survey, conducted between 2005 and 2008, found that infections not related to pregnancy, especially AIDS, were responsible for about 45% of maternal and child deaths. Especially HIV positive mothers were ten times more likely to die during labor or pregnancy than uninfected mothers. Because of this, the government of South African changed its approach by prioritizing antiretroviral therapy for pregnant mothers infected with HIV. By doing so, they hoped to reduce the number of maternal mortality by 2015. South Africa also designed a strategy that sought to reduce the rate of re-infections and fresh infections by half by 2013. The plan was also aimed towards achieving 85% coverage in treatment by the same year. However, monitoring the progress of this strategic plan had been hampered by inadequate custom surveillance data. During a speech delivered in Parliament in 2009, President Jacob Zuma outlined various measures and policies, which were aimed at reinforcing the government’s response towards HIV infections. Amongst these policies a nationwide campaign on HIV counseling and testing was. It was done in order to promote awareness amongst citizens. Also, there was decentralization of medical services, instead of antiretroviral therapy and prescription being offered by doctors in the hospitals, nurses would provide the prescriptions at local healthcare facilities. Moreover, the amount of budgetary allocation towards HIV care, prevention and management would be increased from about 627 million US dollars to an anticipated 773 million dollars. Due to these policies, South Africa had witnessed a slight decline in rates of HIV incidences and infection. In fact, the rate declined to about one percent nationally (The Guardian, 31 January 2012).
The trends and prevalence rates of HIV and AIDS in South Africa appear to be leveling off after initial peaks in the late 90s and early 2000. This was considered to be a success of South Africa’s program on antiretroviral therapy, which is the largest in the world. Moreover, it was observed that the HIV prevalence rate remained relatively stable since 2002 among children and adults. The reason behind such a success was the implementation of such policies as voluntary counseling, services meant to prevent vertical transmission of the disease from mother to child, condoms distribution throughout the entire country. Condoms reduced the risk of contacting HIV amongst sexually active individuals and also reduce the chances of re-infection. They did it by preventing exchange of the virus by fluids during intercourse. Another policy, which was implemented, was increased availability of anti-retroviral drugs and therapy. Despite these efforts, however, the prevalence rate was still high in comparison to other African countries. This could be attributed to the high incidences of unprotected sex. It is worth mentioning that people aged between fifteen and twenty four have shown a strong indication of HIV prevalence rate in South Africa. This is because this age group was considered to be the most sexually active, hence, it provided the perfect sample for analysis. Surveys, based on HIV prevalence rate among persons between fifteen to twenty four years, have indicated a gradual decline in the spread of HIV in the country since 2004. Other surveys based on diagnostic tests, such as polymerase chain reaction, indicated a decline in number of babies born with HIV or those infected by their mothers through breast feeding. Especially, the rate of vertical transmission was found to be 11% with some slight variation occurring due to unreported cases. This is owed to the increased adherence to preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) program, established by the South African government to check on the high vertical transmission rates. This program is almost entirely available in most local health facilities in South Africa and has helped in the realization of the national plan for sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV between 2010 and 2011. The target for the national strategic plan was 96% coverage in the community zone antenatal locations by 2008.