Leickness Simbayi: Social and behavioural dimensions of HIV/AIDS in South Africa: Recent findings and implications
Seminar at the Swiss Tropical Institute
South Africa alone carries the largest burden of HIV/AIDS of any single country in the world. The country is also currently implementing the largest antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme in the world. Unfortunately, most people who are infected are unaware of their HIV status and thus continue to spread their status unwittingly. Indeed, UNAIDS currently estimates that for every AIDS patient commencing ARV treatment in the world another five or six are being newly infected by HIV each year especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.
A research consortium led by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa, in which Prof Simbayi has been centrally involved in, has been conducting a series of national HIV population-based surveys in South Africa using the third-generation surveillance approach every 3 years since 2002. The findings from the first two surveys that were conducted in 2002 and 2005 not only helped South African policy makers and programme implementers to understand better some of the social and behavioural factors that drive the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country but they also had an enormous impact on the ability of the country to develop policies, strategies and improve practice in the area of HIV/AIDS in country including the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV/AIDS and STIs for 2007-2011 which is currently being implemented. Moreover, the survey series now provides the country with a means to help monitor the national response to the disease.
Using the findings from the three surveys (viz., 2002, 2005 & 2008) carried out so far, Prof Simbayi will share the latest available information about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa including its social and behavioural dimensions. The main focus is on how well or badly South Africa is doing in its national response in trying to achieve the goals set in the NSP, in particular, to reduce HIV incidence by 50% by 2011. It is indeed gratifying to note that there seems to be some progress in achieving this goal among both teenagers and children nationally. These positive changes have been attributed mainly to condom use and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programmes respectively. Furthermore, half of all South Africans have now been tested for HIV and know their status. However, there is unequal progress being achieved by the various provinces especially among adults and there has been also a notable decrease in the levels of HIV knowledge across all adult age groups over the past 3 years, Possible explanations of why there is such a mixed picture and recommendations on practical ways in which some of the risk behaviours which increase HIV infection and are still prevalent in the country can be addressed through evidence-based interventions will be discussed.
To see media brief released on 8 June 2009 and download both the report and the original PowerPoint presentation, see
Swiss Tropical Institute