International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections gets under way in Durban

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The International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa kicked off in Durban on Sunday and discussions are expected to look at the impact of COVID-19 on the HIV/AIDS response and to share lessons from African countries on overcoming the barriers for testing and treatment.

There are about 8 million people living with HIV in South Africa.

Infectious disease epidemiologist and Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA, Professor Quarraisha Abdool-Karim says young women in sub-Sharan Africa continue to bear the brunt of HIV/AIDS.

“In Eastern and Southern Africa, we still continue to see about 60% of all infections taking place globally. And a key driver of this infection is the fact that women under 25 have high rates of new infections. So around 15-16, we start to see young women acquiring HIV sexually, which sets them on a very different trajectory.”

Abdool-Karim says social constructs and stigma are impacting men’s willingness to get tested and treated earlier.

“We have 8 times more women on ARV treatment than men. That is because our clinic and facility hours are more conducive for women to utilise the services. Men think about clinics as places women go to because of ante-natal services. They feel a bit alienated, I’m not going there. It’s all the women there or it’s in my community I don’t want to be seen going there.”

International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa kicks off in Durban this week: