Stigma may still cause HIV-positive South Africans to miss early treatment

South Africa has the largest national number of HIV-positive adolescents in the world, and girls are at higher risk.

As the National Strategic Plan states, South Africa also has the third highest level of TB in the world.

While government has made strides to prevent and treat the virus, director of the Durban-based Africa Health Research Institute Professor Deenan Pillay says only 50% of those who need treatment are receiving it and the high number of infections continues.

He says keeping track of the infection is a challenge.

The problem is only 50% of those people who need treatment are receiving treatment. With treatment being for life, there is an increasing burden on society, the health service, and civil society to keep track of this infection and I think that is what is the challenge in South Africa.

Professor Deenan Pillay, director of the Durban-based Africa Health Research Institute

He says people fail to start treatment despite having knowledge of their condition.

There remains some barriers to people even getting on to treatment even if they know they are infected.

Professor Deenan Pillay, director of the Durban-based Africa Health Research Institute

He mentions some of these barriers.

In our setting, which is a very rural environment with high poverty, it may take an hour or two to get to the next primary health clinic to receive treatment. You may have to wait all day in a queue and with the stigma associated with that.

Professor Deenan Pillay, director of the Durban-based Africa Health Research Institute

Meanwhile, UCT Aids and Society Research Unit director Dr Rebecca Hodes, says there is still an issue for those affected to disclose their status in public and so are put off going for treatment.

People are put of by long waiting queues, being identified potentially, just the mere fact of their presence would disclose their status.

Dr Rebecca Hodes, Director of AIDS and Society Research Unit at UCT

In the Mzansi Wakho study, we focused on HIV-Positive and negative adolescents. Adolescents don't want to be known as someone with a disease - that potentially you don't have a future. You want to be known as someone who is vibrant, resilient, attractive and fun.

Dr Rebecca Hodes, Director of AIDS and Society Research Unit at UCT

Click on the link below to hear more about the issue of treatment and lack of access....


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