In South Africa, HIV/AIDS has an impact on every sector of our society. Whether looking at it from a social or economic perspective, or considering the impact it might have in the home or in the workplace, we all feel the effects of the disease. Because South Africa is more heavily affected than most countries, South Africans should place special attention on recognising initiatives such as World AIDS Day, which was commemorated on 1 December.
How does HIV/AIDS impact you?
Millions of South Africans have experienced the pain of losing a loved one to HIV/AIDS. The disease has turned an estimated two million children into orphans, impacting their education and normal development.
Even if the epidemic hasn’t claimed the life of someone close to you, it still has indirect impacts. The widespread effects of the disease mean that it is necessary for government to spend billions of rand every year on awareness campaigns, prevention and treatment. South Africa’s health budget stands at R205.4 billion for the 2018/19 financial year. Of this, R66.4 billion will be spent on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes.
Whether through illness or death, the disease also prevents economically active adults from going to work. This has a significant impact on the economic growth of the country due to (1) reduced levels of income and (2) tax resources that could be used on important government programmes. All of this contributes to a weaker economic environment that threatens the financial well-being of ordinary South Africans. The situation is further worsened by the fact that families affected by HIV/AIDS are forced to spend much of their income on treatment.
What progress have we made in combatting HIV/AIDS?
South Africa has the largest HIV/AIDS programme in the world. Increased levels of government spending, aided by widespread awareness and efforts from NGOs, have helped us to start gaining the upper hand on the disease. According to UN AIDS Data, between 2005 and 2017:
- The number of new infections per year has dropped from 500 000 to 270 000.
- AIDS-related deaths have dropped from 260 000 to 110 000 per year.
- 61% of HIV-positive people are receiving anti-retroviral treatment.
Despite these positive gains, the number of people living with HIV has risen from 4.9 million to an estimated 7.2 million. Although life expectancies have increased thanks to better treatment methods, it is clear that there remains an urgent need to focus on combatting AIDS.
World AIDS Day 2018
In 2018, the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day was celebrated under the theme “Know Your Status”. This urges all people to take responsibility for their health by taking preventative measures or, if they are HIV-positive, finding treatment.
All South Africans need to be aware of the devastating impacts that HIV/AIDS has on our communities. If you’re interested in learning more about HIV/AIDS, or in finding a career that assists with combatting of the disease, then have a look at the Oxbridge Academy Skills Certificate: Understanding HIV/AIDS.