South Africa - Health

Health

The spread of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a major problem in South Africa, with up to 31% of pregnant women found to be HIV infected in 2005 and the infection rate among adults estimated at 20%. The link between HIV, a virus spread primarily by sexual contact, and AIDS was long denied by prior president Thabo Mbeki and then health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who insisted that the many deaths in the country are due to malnutrition, and hence poverty, and not HIV. According to the South African Institute of Race Relations, the life expectancy in 2009 was 71 years for a white South African and 48 years for a black South African.

In 2007, in response to international pressure, the government made efforts to fight AIDS. In September 2008 Thabo Mbeki was recalled by the ANC and chose to resign and Kgalema Motlanthe was appointed for the interim. One of Motlanthe's first actions was to replace Minister Tshabalala-Msimang with Barbara Hogan who immediately started working to improve the Government's approach to AIDS. After the 2009 General Elections, President Jacob Zuma appointed Dr Aaron Motsoaledi as the new minister and committed his government to increasing funding for and widening the scope of AIDS treatment.

AIDS affects mainly those who are sexually active and is far more prevalent in the black population than it is among racial minorities. Most deaths are experienced by economically active individuals, resulting in many families losing their primary wage earners. This has resulted in many 'AIDS orphans' who in many cases depend on the state for care and financial support. It is estimated that there are 1,200,000 orphans in South Africa. Many elderly people also lose the support from lost younger members of their family. According to the 2011 UNAIDS Report, South Africa has an estimated 5.6 million people living with HIV - more than any other country in the world.

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