KwaZulu-Natal remains the province with the highest number of people living with HIV in South Africa.  This was revealed by a recent study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council which has been presented at the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.

While it showed some improvements in the province’s AIDS response, it also highlighted many challenges that exist. Results of the survey show that there are now 7.9 million people living with HIV in South Africa.

Over 2 .1 million of those are in one province, KwaZulu Natal. Professor Quarraisha Abdul-Karim from Comprehensive International Program of Research on AIDS (CAPRISA) reiterated that HIV prevalence is concentrated in some parts of the province especially in the Mgungundlovu district.

“There are 12 districts in the 52 districts we have across SA that account for a third of all the people living with HIV and nine of those are in the province of KZN. The province of KZN only has 11 health districts; the remaining three are from Gauteng and Mpumalanga.”

Responding to the findings, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu welcomed the report that has highlighted their weaknesses. “We have acknowledged a long time ago that KZN is the epicentre of both HIV/AIDS as well as TB in SA. We can see which parts of our society, our population in the province are not yet properly on board. We commit to utilising this information without any fail. “

The study also found some successes though, like an increase to one million in the number of men who are medically circumcised. The province did not support circumcision for years until King of AmaZulu, Goodwill Zwelithini called on his nation to embrace it. “I’m humbled to learn that of the 4.4 (million) South Africans who are on treatment in the country, 1.3 are coming from KZN. This improvement on male medical circumcision has had a positive impact in terms of reducing HIV. So now I’m actually taking a message back home to say we have done well as 1 million but we need to put many more South Africans on treatment. I’m taking this message to our King who is actually the champion of medical male circumcision in the province.” says Health MEC in KwaZulu-Natal Doctor Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

The province has also taken lessons from other countries which it hopes to take back home. “One of the things I think was most important for me is criminalising HIV and AIDS. The gentleman who was presenting said there are people who are tested HIV positive and they want to spread it. And he made an example of people who got arrested, they infected other people,” says Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi.

The next International AIDS Conference will be held in San Francisco and Oakland in the United States of America in 2020.