South Africa’s public school teachers are struggling to remain HIV negative.

South Africa-Based on data from Education Management Information System, at least 58 000 of the 389 044 full-time and part-time teachers were living with the virus in 2015, and 2 900 others were newly infected in the same year.

These shocking statistics are contained in a new report that was released by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) this week.

Professor Khangelani Zuma, head of biostatistics at the HSRC, said:

“These are educated people who have a better socioeconomic status and are supposed to be imparting knowledge to pupils about HIV … [yet] eight teachers got infected every day in 2015.

“This could be attributed to the high partner turnover, as teachers who were not married were two times more likely to have two or more partners, compared with those who were married,” he said.

The department of basic education commissioned the study to assess the health and wellbeing of public school teachers.

It was aimed at investigating the HIV burden among teachers and the effect of HIV prevention, care and treatment programmes.

The study was conducted in all the country’s provinces, where 21 495 professionals from 1 380 public schools participated.

About two-thirds of the teachers who participated provided dried blood spots that were tested for HIV.

Zuma said the study noted that HIV prevalence among male teachers decreased from 12.35% in 2004 to 5.2% in 2015 in the 25 to 29 age group.

Also, HIV prevalence in male teachers between the ages of 18 and 24 decreased from 6.6% in 2004 to 2.5% in 2015.

“This shows that HIV prevention programmes are having an effect on male teachers who are younger than 35,” Zuma said.

Unfortunately, HIV prevalence in those who are older than 35 increased, partly due to the accessibility of HIV treatment, which meant that older male teachers were living longer.

Researchers also found a high HIV prevalence among female teachers.

Prevalence among female teachers in the 18 to 24 age group particulary worry Zuma.

He said this meant that “prevention messages were not getting through to this group of young women”. (source: News24)

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