Around one in 10 South Africans were living with HIV in 2015. An estimated 6.2 million South Africans, 11%, are living with the disease, out of an estimated total population of 55 million people.
The number of South Africans infected with HIV has increased by 2.2 million since 2002, when 4 million South Africans were living with the virus. However, infections are dropping, with the incidence rate for people between the ages of 15 and 49 declining.
Although the history of the HIV response in South Africa was seriously impeded by leaders who doubted the science behind AIDS and ARVs, in the last few years the country has become home to the world’s biggest programme of HIV treatment, and the country’s life-expectancy has gained five years.
HIV prevalence varies a lot by region. In KwaZulu-Natal, the region where Edzimkulu works and which has the highest prevalence, just under 40 percent of 15-49 year-olds are living with HIV. Those who are particularly shouldering the burden of the epidemic are young adults, the age group most affected by the epidemic; almost one-in-three women aged 25-29, and over a quarter of men aged 30-34, are living with HIV/AIDS
Impact on Children and Families
South Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic has had a devastating effect on children. The age bracket that AIDS most heavily targets – younger adults – means it is not uncommon for one or more parents to die from AIDS while their offspring are young. The loss of a parent not only has an immense emotional impact on children but for most families can spell financial hardship. One survey on HIV’s impact on households found that, “80 percent of the sample would lose more than half their per capita income with the death of the highest income earner, suggesting a lingering and debilitating shock of death.”
It is estimated there are 1.9 million children orphaned by AIDS where one or both parents are deceased in South Africa, and that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is responsible for half of the country’s orphans. Another estimate puts the proportion of maternal orphans – those who have lost their mother – orphaned by AIDS at over 70 percent. Orphans may put pressure on older relatives who become their primary caregivers; they may have to relocate from their familiar neighbourhood; and siblings may be split apart, all of which can harm their development.
The impact of HIV/AIDS on children has been vast, but since 2009 South Africa has had one of the sharpest declines in new infections among children. By 2011, more than 95 percent of pregnant women with HIV received treatment to prevent the infection of their child. Yearly infections in children have dropped accordingly.
Statistics by AVERT
HIV/AIDS in Ndawana
Edzimkulu, working in Ndawana, has been recognized nationally for its leadership in HIV reduction and HIV prevention under the umbrella of the re-engineering of primary care. This story can be read in our Three Year Plan.