AIDS, still around, still killing

South Africa, already home to a whopping 5.7 million HIV-positive people—more than any other nation—can expect an additional five million to become infected during the next two decades. That’s even if the nation more than doubles its financing for treatment and prevention and gives prevention a higher priority, according to a story in the New York Times.

Even though South Africa by far has the continent’s leading economy, it faces a “major and mounting financial challenge” to confront its AIDS problem. About $102 billion will be needed throughout the next 20 years to keep the number of new infections at the projected five million mark.

South Africa is actually in the midst of a rapid expansion of its AIDS programs, attempting to overcome years of denial and delay when former President Thabo Mbeki questioned whether HIV caused AIDS. He suggested antiretroviral drugs were harmful, while his health minister recommended remedies of beet root and garlic.

Sounds like a let them eat cake attitude, if you ask me.

Last year, the nation spent $2.1 billion on AIDS, although a third of that came from international donors, including $620 million from the United States.

The information in the story was taken from a government-requested study called The Long-Run Costs and Financing of H.I.V./AIDS in South Africa. It was done by the Center for Economic Governance and AIDS in Africa, based in Cape Town, and the Results for Development Institute, based in Washington D.C.

In the past year, the South African government has widely increased treatment with antiretroviral drugs and began a campaign for counseling and testing. The report said it needed to go much further, emphasizing male circumcision, which has been shown to decrease HIV contraction by by more than 50 percent, and condom use.

South Africa has a population of 49 million, and an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 new infections occur annually. With enough money and better programs, that number could gradually be brought down to 200,000 a year by 2020, the report said.

I’d sure like to see that happen.

Read the entire story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/20/world/africa/20safrica.html?partner=rss&emc=rss.

By Felicia Dechter

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