HIV/AIDS in South Africa

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HIV and AIDS in South Africa are a major health concern, and around 5.5 million people are thought to be living with the virus in South Africa. [1] HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the retrovirus that causes the disease known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). South Africa has more people with HIV/AIDS than any other country.[2] Many are treated at South Africa's Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the world's largest hospital.[2]

Most researchers believe that HIV originated in sub-Saharan Africa during the twentieth century.[3] The South African National HIV Survey estimated that 10.8% of all South Africans over 2 years old were living with HIV in 2005 [4]. The ASSA2003 model estimates that 345,640 South Africans died of AIDS in 2006.


AIDS is affecting mainly those who are sexually active, which means the demographics of the country are slowly changing. Many deaths are people who are their family's primary wage earners. This is resulting in many 'AIDS orphans' who in many cases depend on the state for care and financial support.[5] It is estimated that there are 1,100,000 orphans in South Africa.[5] Elderly people, traditionally supported by younger members of the family, are also becoming more and more dependent on the state for financial support.</ref>

Government action

The government has recently, after much delay, devoted substantial resources to fighting the epidemic. In 2000, President Mbeki publicly questioned the importance of HIV in causing AIDS, controversially suggesting that the main cause was "poverty".[6] In 2001 the government appointed a panel of scientists, including a number of AIDS dissidents (who question the mainstream view on HIV), to report back on the issue. Following their report, the government stated that it continues to base its policy on the premise that the cause of AIDS is indeed HIV.[7] The controversy has not abated, and organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign continue to mount political and legal challenges to what they claim is the government's slow response to the epidemic.

Recently, drafts of a new five-year National Strategic AIDS Plan have come closer to being finalized. The new plans allocates about R45-billion (about 6 billion US Dollars) towards infection prevention, and says nothing of the previous governmental claims that malnutrition played a role in the spread of AIDS. The council, headed by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, is expected to announce the finalized plan by the end of March.[8]

The effort to improve treatment of HIV/AIDS was damaged by the health minister's attitude towards treatments. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang advocates a diet of garlic, beetroot and lemon to cure the disease . This led to President Thabo Mbeki sidelining the health minister to take focus away from her advocated treatment. Many leading scientists and political figures called for her removal from her post, however she still remains the current health minister.[9] President Mbeki and Health Minister Tshabalala-Msimang dismissed Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge in early August, 2007. Madlala-Routledge has been widely credited by medical professionals and AIDS activists for energizing South Africa's response to AIDS over the last two years.[10] Routledge reports of having clashed with her boss Tshabalala-Msimang, leading to allegations that her removal was a "setup".[11]


  1. UNAIDS South Africa
  2. 2.0 2.1 radiodiaries entry on "Just Another Day at the Biggest Hospital in the World"
  3. Gao, F., Bailes, E., Robertson, D. L., Chen, Y., Rodenburg, C. M., Michael, S. F., Cummins, L. B., Arthur, L. O., Peeters, M., Shaw, G. M., Sharp, P. M. and Hahn, B. H. (1999). "Origin of HIV-1 in the Chimpanzee Pan troglodytes troglodytes". Nature. 397 (6718): 436–441. PMID 9989410 doi:10.1038/17130.
  4. HIV and AIDS statistics for South Africa
  5. 5.0 5.1 "AIDS orphans". Avert. Retrieved 2006-10-08.
  6. BBC News: Controversy dogs Aids forum
  7. BBC News: South African split over Aids
  8. "South Africa's Aids action plan". the International Marketing Council of South Africa. 2007-3-15. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. Garlic AIDS cure minister sidelined 12 Sep 2006
  10. Mbeki Gives Reason for Firing Minister August 12 2007
  11. Madlala-Routledge was 'set up': De Lille August 08 2007

Further reading

  • Pieter Fourie, "The Political Management of HIV and AIDS in South Africa: One burden too many?" Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, ISBN 0230006671

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