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Gideon Mendel/National Geographic
Men and women wait in a long line at an AIDS clinic in Lusikisiki, South Africa.

2010 World Cup: Potential Surge of HIV/AIDS Infections in South Africa?

August 04, 2009 03:00 PM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
Although South African authorities hope the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament will attract tourists to the country, they also worry that HIV/AIDS infection rates may jump due to the event.

Soccer Fans Make World Cup Potentially Dangerous

South African Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi warned the world about a possible increase in HIV/AIDS infection rates due to the 2010 World Cup, Reuters reported. South Africa has the world’s largest HIV positive population in the world, with approximately 5.7 million people infected.

According to Reuters, “An estimated 500,000 people are infected each year and around 1,000 die every day from AIDS-related illnesses [in South Africa].” AVERT, an international HIV/AIDS charity, explains that the high rates of infection in sub-Saharan Africa are due to “the absence of massively expanded prevention, treatment and care efforts,” resulting from a lack of education and funds.

The surge of visitors expected to flood the country for the soccer tournament could become a source of danger, greatly increasing the spread of the virus. “[W]e know there will be lots of visitors who come here for sex, you can't hide that,” Motsoaledi said, according to Reuters. “It happens and what will be the effects on this country?"

Reactions: South African prostitutes welcome visitors

In April 2008, The Sun reported on the impact of the World Cup on South African prostitution. Poverty-stricken and often homeless, South African prostitutes are eager for English soccer fans to arrive because they’re known for their rowdiness and willingness to engage in risky behaviors. “We just can’t wait,” Yolanda Lorika, a 19-year-old prostitute, told The Sun. “We only get paid about £10 for sex when drivers stop for us here. English men will pay a lot more.”

Even though prostitutes are aware of HIV/AIDS—“they have grown up with it”—they still consider it “just an occupational hazard,” The Sun reports.

Related Topic: New HIV strain discovered

The main source of HIV infections in humans originated in chimpanzees. But new research has uncovered an HIV infection “clearly linked to a gorilla strain,” Nature Medicine reported, according to the BBC. The infection was discovered in a 62-year-old Cameroonian woman living in France.

Researchers are confident, however, that the drugs used to combat the effects of regular HIV might still be useful to treat this new strain. "There's no reason to believe this virus will present any new problems, as it were, that we don't already face,” Dr. David Robertson of the University of Manchester told the BBC.

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