Top breakthroughs in HIV/AIDs prevention in SA

Top breakthroughs in HIV/AIDs prevention in SA

Hands up for Prevention is this year's campaign for World Aids Day spearheaded by the UNAIDS -  creating a space for the public to share their views on strengthening HIV prevention efforts. 

World Aids Day
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With the highest rate in the world, there are seven million South Africans living with HIV while 180 000 deaths have been recorded in the last year. World Aids Day reminds us of those who lost their lives to HIV and to acknowledge headway made in the fight against the spread of the virus.

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This year, KZN was the centre of awareness efforts when activists, policy-makers and researchers converged for the first time in 15 years to host The International AIDS Conference, or AIDS 2016, in Durban. HIV/AIDS remains a crucial ongoing global health issue.


Manufactured by Gilead Sciences Inc., Truvada is the first drug that prevents the sexual transmission of HIV for those living without the virus. The drug was initially created for HIV-positive patients to control the spread of the virus in the body. It was approved by the South African Medicines Control Council last year – the second country to do so after the United States. A controversy among experts, some argue this may give way to people engaging in risky behaviour - believing that they are completely cured. Guidelines around the use of the drug in SA are yet to be set.

 Mother to child transmission (MTCT) 

In September last year, the World Health Organisation released new guidelines recommending lifelong antiretroviral treatment for all women living with the virus that are either pregnant or breastfeeding irrespective of their CD4 count. Mother to Child Transmission (HIV being transmitted during a pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding) - accounts for a 15% to 45% chance of infection in new-born babies. 

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WHO says this can be reduced to below 5% if there’s early treatment. African countries such as Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Uganda met the Global Plan’s target of reducing transmission by 90% in 2015. Between the years 2009 and 2014, WHO states the number of new infections in children dropped by over 60% globally.

The vaccine trial (HVTN 702)


The first two people in South Africa have received a vaccine said to lower the risk of contracting HIV. Two Durban residents - who volunteered to participate in the study - received their first injections administered by the Medical Research Council yesterday. Also run in Thailand seven years ago – this saw a 31% reduction of the risk of HIV infection.

 The trial aims to enrol about 5400 South Africans aged between 18 and 35 years old. The participants will receive a total of five injections over one year and will be monitored for a period of 24 to 36 months from the time the study begins.

Introducing ARVs in SA

Antiretroviral treatment was first introduced in South Africa’s public sector in 2004. This was implemented following controversies involving the then president, Thabo Mbeki and Health Minister, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. The Health Minister became a subject of global criticism after being reluctant to adopt the treatment instead promoting the benefits of beetroot, garlic, and lemons. 

The country has since grown to have the world’s largest ARV therapy programme. In 2015, there were 6.2-million people living with the condition in the country - according to Stats SA. Of that, over three million were recorded to be on treatment. 

Below, is a short video, courtesy of the International Aids Society on the progress in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS 30 years on.

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