Sunday Times (Johannesburg) - February 14, 2012
The rate at which South Africans contracted HIV fell by 30%
between 2000 and 2008, mostly due to increased condom use,
according to a new study published in the Royal Society journal
Interface last month.
The study was conducted by an actuarial scientist and
epidemiologist from the University of Cape Town, an expert from
the Human Sciences Research Council and another from the
department of infectious disease epidemiology at London's
One of the study's authors, Leigh Johnson, of the university's
school of public health, said that the study used mathematical
models to work out what is contributing to the significant
decrease in HIV infections.
The evidence links condom use to the 30% decrease in the rate of
infection and finds that advertising campaigns played a role in
encouraging condom use.
The increases in reported condom use coincided with the
introduction of HIV education programmes.
Johnson said that the results of the study are important because
there has been increasing scepticism about donating money to
programmes that encourage condom use and behaviour change - such
as being tested or reducing the number of sexual partners.
He said it is often easier to get funding for bio-medical
interventions that are measurable, such as medical circumcisions.
Results from the study also showed that "people weren't using
condoms as often as they said they were, or condoms were less
than 90% effective".
Researchers believed that people tend to over-report their usage
The publication of the study coincides with the third National
HIV Communication Survey, which measures the effectiveness of HIV
communication campaigns and the role they play in encouraging and
maintaining beneficial behaviour change.
The survey was commissioned by NGOs loveLife and Soul City, the
Johns Hopkins University health and education research unit in
South Africa, and Health and Development Africa, which provides
technical assistance in health and development.
The director of the Johns Hopkins unit, Richard Delate, said that
previous studies had showed that young men were using condoms far
"Condom use by young men aged 16 to 24 increased from 20% in 1999
to 75% in 2009," he said.
However, Delate said, condoms are not always available.
There are huge problems in some areas where there were less than
10 to 15 condoms available per sexually active man over a year.
Figures from the 2008 and 2009 survey show that the City of
Johannesburg made about eight condoms available to each sexually
active man each year, and the Ekurhuleni municipality on the East
Rand provided about six.