HIV in South Africa

HIV in South Africa remains a global concern ever since it emerged, the country’s former President, Thabo Mbeki allowed many South Africans to perish because he won’t accept AIDs was caused by a viral infection.

Apart from that, records have consistently shown that the country has the biggest and highest profile HIV epidemic in the world.

Two years ago, it was estimated that about 7 million South Africans are living with HIV. While it was also estimated that there were almost 400,000 new infections, it was disclosed that 180,000 South Africans died from AIDs-related illnesses.

But, like Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS Executive Director said, “the story of AIDS response in South Africa (has been a) journey from denial to acceptance, dependency to ownership, despair to hope, and impressive results.”

1.6 million AIDs deaths have been prevented in the country since 2005. The world is happy about that. However, the following are the latest development about HIV in South Africa that’s been celebrated across the globe.

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 9-year-old cured of HIV in South Africa

Okay, “cure” is probably a strong word to use here. But, there is no evidence of HIV in the child’s blood.

The South African lad is now the world’s third child born with HIV to go into remission. It’s said that the child has had a healthy immune system for over eight years after receiving a short course HIV treatment as an infant.

This development comes from a study sponsored by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. From our gatherings, the child was placed on antiretroviral treatment (ART) for 40 weeks as an infant. Treatment was stopped after that and all that was done is to monitor the child’s health.

In 2015, blood tests revealed that the child is in HIV remission. That is, the levels of the virus in the kid’s blood are undetectable.

Follow up tests were done on samples of the kid’s infancy. With that, it was confirmed that the child achieved remission when treatment was stopped.

According to researchers, an immediate and aggressive treatment after infection have high tendency of remitting the disease on a long-term basis, leading to a possible lasting cure.

Dr Avy Violari, the leader of pediatric clinical trials at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa presented the findings of this HIV study at the 9th International AIDS Conference on HIV Science in Paris today.

Dr Violari who’s also the child’s doctor said: “this is really very rare, the child is the only child showing remission.

“We cannot see virus in the blood using standard techniques…we can see fragments of the virus in the cells. This child is unique,” added Violari.

Also speaking, Dr Mark Cotton, a professor of pediatrics at Stellenbosch University remarked that this development could be a huge progress in the global fight against HIV.

“We are delighted and excited by what happened with this child … we need to extrapolate (from this) to the benefit of other children on antiretroviral drugs,” said Dr Cotton.

What we do not know and have not ascertained is if the child can infect others with the disease through any of the modes of transmission.

HIV Self-testing To Commence In South Africa

At the 9th International AIDS Conference on HIV Science in Paris, the HIV Self-Testing Africa (STAR) Initiative, funded by Unitaid announced the expansion of the STAR project to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.

It is anticipated that the initiative will increase the adoption of HIV prevention and treatment services as it will allow individuals to test themselves in complete privacy.

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BuzzSouthAfrica gathered that the new five-year STAR project will be implemented by Population Services International (PSI) and Society for Family Health (SFH) South Africa, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Other partners that will help implement the project are:

  1. London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  2. Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute

The initiative as has been reported will see over 2 million HIV self-test kits distributed to people said to have no knowledge of their status. The kits here allow the self-testers to carry out the tests in the privacy of their homes.

STAR had embarked on a similar initiative a few tears ago in Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe where it was discovered that more men yielded to the exercise.