A study in the current issue of the African Journal of AIDS Research suggests that South Africa's AIDS epidemic peaked in 2002, with 4.69 million people infected with HIV. New infections are expected to decrease beginning this year, and coupled with rising numbers of AIDS-related deaths in the country, the number of people living with HIV disease is expected to decrease annually, say researchers at the South African Human Sciences Research Council.
The conclusions were drawn from an epidemiological model crafted by the scientists to examine the spread of HIV in the country based on demographic data collected through two independent studies. According to the model, the prevalence of HIV among 15- to 49-year-old adults is expected to decline from 17.3% in 2001 to 15.2% in 2010. The study also predicted that the number of AIDS deaths in the country will peak in 2008 with nearly 490,000 fatalities and begin to slowly decline thereafter. The study attributes the peak of the epidemic to several factors, including an increase in the number of AIDS deaths in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and changes in sexual behavior following the launch of HIV prevention programs.