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AIDS Wkly Plus. 1997 May 27:23-4.

AIDS epidemic runs riot in South Africa.

[No authors listed]



Based on current health surveys in South Africa, the HIV and AIDS epidemic there is spreading faster than health workers can develop a policy to combat it. 120 million male and 90,000 female condoms have been distributed to the areas that are most affected. According to Health Minister Nkosazana Zuma, the percentage of HIV-positive pregnant women in the North-West Province rose from 8.3% in 1995 to 25% in 1997. In June 1996, 1.7 million people were at risk; this number rose to 2.5 million in 1997, 90,000 of whom will develop advanced AIDS by the end of the year. According to independent researchers, 800 people are infected daily, which means that 16% of South Africa's workers are already infected. This figure could rise to 20% by the year 2000 according to Professor Ronald Green-Thompson. At that time, the cost to the South African economy would be between US$25 million and US$2.3 billion. The World Health Organization (WHO) is touring provinces for the first time to select sites for use by assessment teams in July. Dr. Liz Floyd, head of the HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases unit, states that, although US$6.1 million (US$2.3 million more than in 1996) have been designated to fight the epidemic, new measures have to be found to avoid an infection rate of 1 in 5 young women by the end of the year. The unit conducts annual surveys among women attending public prenatal clinics. Infection appears to be linked to poverty, migration, family breakdowns, and prostitution. The greatest increase has been among women aged 20-24 years. According to Floyd, "the supply of condoms is still uneven and unreliable, especially in high density peri-urban settlements and shanty towns. Primary care for the youth and home-based schemes are poorly coordinated and erratic." Zuma believes that schools should be targeted; she hopes to educate children in 7400 secondary and 13,500 primary schools. Donor agencies, churches, workers, and business people have become involved, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Nelson Mandela, who are appearing on radio and television to promote condom use.

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