HIV/AIDS in South Africa

South Africa remains at the centre of the HIV/AIDS epidemic sweeping the world. Reports by WHO (2008) showed that of the 47. 9 million people in South Africa, 5. 7 million or 11. 9 percent have HIV. Around 1,000 people die from AIDS everyday. South Africa is experiencing severe HIV/AIDS crisis because 17. 3 percent of the total number people in the world living with HIV is from South Africa. The country has the highest concentration of people living with HIV. These numbers have wider and dire implications not only on the people living with HIV but also those at risk of infection (Epstein, 2008).

Around one out of every five adults has HIV. This reflects the very high rate of risk of infection of family members, especially children and young people. The mean life expectancy of adults has dropped by ten years to 54 and many young people are likely not to grow to 60. AIDS related conditions account for majority of the deaths in South Africa. (Karim & Karim, 2006) This is an alarming situation since people attend more funerals than holding a family barbecue.

Measures of human development dropped dramatically for South Africa especially during the 1990s when the number of people with HIV radically increased and the effect of this steep rise in those living with HIV remains an issue today. The situation worsened with the inability of health care facilities to handle the care of patients with conditions related to HIV. Addressing the situation would require government spending to reach around sixty to seventy percent of the entire budget.

The state of education has also declined as many teachers and students cope with their HIV infection or children and family members living with HIV. The alarming increase in the number of people living with HIV together with insufficient health care services and poor education translates into a low quality of life for the people in South Africa. (UNDP, 2008) Given the situation in South Africa, ways of addressing the health care needs of people living with HIV and preventing further HIV infections are imperative.

As early as 2000, the South African government through the health department had drafted an action plan to address the issue of HIV/AIDS. A council was set-up to management the implementation of the plan. (UNDP, 2007) However, positive results were scarce and the five-year period lapsed without much results. This seriously affected the situation since effective intervention plans during this period could have prevented the rise in the number of people with HIV.

One intervention plan is providing people with HIV with available treatments to offset the health risks faced by people living with HIV or alleviate their health condition. There remains no viable cure for HIV but drug treatments helped people living with HIV cope with the heath risks they face everyday. (Savdeoff, 2004; World Bank, 2004) There are already antiretroviral treatments for HIV available to South Africa as early as 2002. However, there was hesitation on the part of the government to allow public access to these drug treatments even with the high court order allowing this plan of action.

It was only in 2004 that the government finally implemented a plan of distributing antiretroviral drugs across the country perhaps due to strong pressure from other governments and non-government advocacy groups. (Karim & Karim, 2006) Another intervention plan is massive information drive across the population as a preventive measure (World Bank, 2004). It was only recently that information drives in South Africa commenced. Many factors contributed to the poor information drives.

One compelling reasons is political instability during the shift from apartheid, during the 1990s up to the early part of 2000. This diverted the focus that the issue of HIV/AIDS deserved. Community-based intervention only commenced in 2005 when the government set-up at least one health care centre for people living with HIV and those afflicted with AIDS for each of the fifty-three districts of South Africa. (Epstein, 2008) This was a good start but establishing one health care facility per district still was not enough to achieve the targeted service delivery and preventive outcomes.

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The study has benefits. Policy analysis can assist in the formulation of possible policy options on HIV/AIDS preventive strategies. Recommendations on policy options that reflect the millennium development goal to combat HIV/AIDS could provide clarification and guidance to policymaking by …

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