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CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The rate of new HIV infections in South Africa, which has one of the world's largest case loads with nearly one in 10 infected, is growing faster than prevention efforts, the deputy president said on Thursday.
"The rate of new infections continue to outpace our prevention efforts, and thus prevention programmes will be prioritised in the new national strategic plan which is being developed for 2012-2016," Kgalema Motlanthe told parliament.
Statistics S.A. estimates 5.4 million people in the country of about 49 million are living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.
East and Southern Africa are the areas most heavily affected by the global HIV epidemic. Out of the total number of people worldwide in 2009 living with HIV, 34 percent were in 10 countries of Southern Africa, according to the U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS.
Recently, however, new HIV infection rates have been falling in the region and in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV rates declined by 25 percent between 2001 and 2009.
The change in South Africa has been dramatic.
A decade ago, the government was putting its faith in those who denied HIV caused AIDS, and funded traditional healers who proposed garlic and beetroot as cures while withholding proven drugs for treatment.
Over the past few years it has spent billions of dollars to combat the disease, overseeing the world's largest rollout of anti-retroviral drugs, with over 1.3 million now receiving the life-saving medication.