Thousands of South African Teachers Need Anti-AIDS Drugs
June 8, 2005
An extensive study by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) found that some 23,500 teachers, mostly in rural South Africa, urgently need antiretrovirals (ARVs) for HIV/AIDS. The report put the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among teachers at 12.7 percent, rising to 21.4 percent among teachers ages 25-34.
"The younger educators are the ones that we are going to be losing," HSRC researcher Olive Shisana told the national AIDS conference today in Durban. Shisana said the 23,500 teachers' CD4 cell counts were below 350, indicating the need for ARVs. Of the teachers who need ARVs, an estimated 10,000 had CD4 cell counts lower than 200, indicating they had progressed to AIDS, the researcher said.
"We recommend treatment as a matter of urgency," Shisana said. "I'm not talking about later but right now."
Shisana noted the study did not establish how many teachers might already be taking ARVs, and the call for treatment was based on analysis of CD4 cell counts of those teachers with HIV.
The nationwide study, conducted in 2004, found that rural areas are "hotspots" for teachers with HIV/AIDS, with the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province ranking first at 21.8 percent prevalence, followed by Mpumalanga province and the Eastern Cape. In 2004, 4,000 teachers died of AIDS. Eighty percent of them were under 45, the study reported.
The report said one-third of all educators were affected by AIDS because of relatives or friends dying during the past two years, and that absenteeism was high because of funeral attendance. Shisana said 20 percent of educators were attending services at least monthly for friends or relatives who had died of AIDS.
"It does have an impact in terms of educators being able to do their work," Shisana stated.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.