Millions living longer because of HIV treatment

By Zukile Majova

Life-prolonging drugs are making a world of difference to millions of South Africans living with HIV.

Because of easy access to treatment, the number of people living with HIV in South Africa has dropped by 1.3% in the past six years.

The sixth South African National HIV survey, released on Monday by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) found that there were about 7.8 million people living with HIV in South Africa in 2022 compared to 7.9 million in 2017.

While Mzansi is the global epicentre of the disease, people are living longer and contributing to a more stable workforce than in the past.

KwaZulu-Natal has the highest number of people living with HIV and the HSRC said older men are still infecting girls and young women in the province.

The HSRC’s Public Health executive, Professor Khangelani Zuma, said the rate of infection was slowing down. “These factors include fewer people getting infected with HIV, more children born HIV-negative, Aids-related mortality, and people ageing and dying from natural causes.

“The epidemic curve also shows an ageing population of people living with HIV who are living longer as the epidemic stabilises,” he said. 

The survey hailed the rollout of treatment to patients without waiting for their CD4 count to drop below 500 cells as one of the reasons HIV-related deaths are declining.

The prevalence of male circumcision among 15 to 24-year-olds has also increased from 43% in 2017 to over 50% in 2022. “This is an important achievement as studies have shown that male circumcision can reduce the risk of heterosexual HIV transmission by approximately 60%.” 

The SA government news agency reported that HIV prevalence varied geographically, ranging from 8% in the Western Cape to 22% in KwaZulu-Natal among 15-year-olds and older. HIV prevalence is nearly twice as high among women (20%) compared to men (12%). 

Pictured above: HIV medication. 

Image source: X


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