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Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the HIV and Aids epidemic in South Africa.
Question: How many people are living with HIV in South Africa?
Answer: The most current estimate (February 2011) is that 5.5 million people are living with HIV, which represents about 12% of the population. One in four people between 15 and 49 years of age is infected with HIV.
Question: Are there any differences between Aids in Africa and elsewhere in the world?
Answer: The cause of Aids is always the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) but, as most common HIV subtypes in Africa are slightly different from those in the developed world, responses to treatment (and possible future vaccines) might be affected.
Question: Did Aids originate in Africa?
Answer: On current evidence, it seems likely that Africa was where the transfer of HIV to humans first occurred. However, how exactly the virus spread from Africa to America and beyond remains a mystery. It is quite possible that separate "pockets" of the virus could have been developing in a number of different countries years before the first cases were ever officially identified, making it virtually impossible to trace one single source.
Question: How many people stay on treatment?
Answer: One cross-country study found that 40% of people discontinued treatment within two years. Reasons for people dropping out include death, the cost of treatment, poor supply of medicines and problems with transport to obtain the medicines.
Question: What is the main cause of death in SA?
Answer: In February 2011, it was estimated that there are over 1,700 Aids-related deaths in South Africa each day. This is at least five times greater than the next largest single cause of death.
Question: How many Aids orphans are there in South Africa?
Answer: The latest estimate has revealed that 600,000 children have been orphaned because of Aids.
Question: How successful is the mass media in preventing Aids?
Answer: According to the South African Medical Research Council, mass media campaigns designed to raise awareness of HIV and Aids have shown immediate and significant effects in the promotion of voluntary HIV counselling and testing (HCT). However, while mass media campaigns have shown an immediate and significant overall effect on HCT, no significant long-term effect has been demonstrated. This may have been due to the short duration of the campaigns.