JOHANNESBURG, March 19, 2013 (AFP) - The South African army Tuesday said 8.5 percent of the country's 79,200 soldiers have HIV/AIDS, angrily dismissing claims of a higher prevalence rate.
The surgeon general of the South African National Defence Force, Vejay Ramlakan said a study conducted in 2012 "showed a prevalence rate of 8.5 percent compared to the national prevalence rate of about 19 percent".
"This is in stark contrast to claims by some academics the last few years that the HIV and AIDS infection rate among soldiers is as high as 28 percent," said a statement.
South Africa has no law barring infected people from serving in the army, in a country where some six million people are living with the HIV virus.
As many as 1.7 million people are on the state-funded anti-retroviral programme, the largest in the world.