Dominique Herman, www.iol.co.za
Young, crazy people are starting to play young, crazy risk games,
Toms said on Monday at the internationally attended founding meeting of the
Africa Genome Education Institute's Biotechnology and Health Economics Working
Group of South Africa.
Toms attributed this scary change of an increased taking of
sexual risks - especially among younger men - to their thinking that AIDS was a
chronic disease that could be managed with medication.
'Scary change' AIDS was a heterosexually driven disease in this country, and
indeed in sub-Saharan Africa, but initial work with the Human Sciences Research
Council to ascertain the prevalence of HIV-infection among homosexuals had
established that it was becoming a really serious problem in the gay
community as well, Toms said.
Toms quoted two sources of HIV data which put the total number of people
living with HIV in SA in 2005 between 5,2 million and 5,5 million. The HIV
prevalence rate among the adult population (15 to 49) was between 18 percent and
In Brazil - to which South Africa is often compared as the South American
country is also battling a raging pandemic but, unlike South Africa, has
achieved considerable gains in the past six years, in particular - 620 000
people are living with HIV with an adult prevalence rate of 0,5 percent.
Clearly, we have a huge issue that needs a bigger, faster response.
Ultimately, we're not on top of the problem, Toms said.
To illustrate the failure of the country's prevention campaign thus far, he
mentioned an anecdote he had heard from some women that they only used condoms
when they wanted to punish their boyfriends.
'A really serious problem' For these young people, he said, protection, and,
in turn, prevention, was equated with punishment.
However, in the Western Cape, the size of the HIV problem was still
manageable, Toms said.
This was a result partly of political will, effective leadership and the
large skills base from the three major universities. In the province this year
there have been over 267 000 total HIV infections and a prevalence rate among
adults at 8.6%. The total number of those sick with AIDS in June was just under
20 000 and the number of AIDS deaths so far in 2006 just over 11 000. The number
of new infections is just under 28 000.
There are about one million orphans in SA who have lost one or both parents