What is HIV?

HIV stands for “Human Immuno-deficiency Virus”.  This virus slowly damages a person’s immune system.  The immune system protects the body against infections and diseases.  One way of thinking about the immune system is to see it as the body’s army – it’s job is to defend the body from attack by germs and other dangerous organisms.  A virus is like a germ.  It attacks people’s cells and causes diseases.

What is AIDS?

HIV leads to AIDS.  When a person’s immune system has become so weakened by HIV that it cannot fight off infections anymore, we say that a person has developed “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” or AIDS.  Opportunitic infections (illnesses that take advantage of the body’s weakened immune system) include thrush, tuberculosis (TB), skin rashes, shingles and others.

All people have human rights, but because of prejudice about AIDS or ignorance about the law, people living with aids (PLWA) often find out they are victims of human rights violations.

Examples of human rights violations are:

  •             A health care worker test you for HIV without  your informed consent or without per- and post-test counselling.  This would happen for example when a doctor or nurse takes  
    your blood and without asking you for permission, test your blood for HIV.
  •             A person in a relationship of trust tells others about your HIV status without your consent.  This is called disclosure.  For example, your employer knows that you have HIV and tells others about it without asking you.

AIDS discrimination happens when a PLWA is discriminated against or victimised. 

Examples of AIDS discrimination include:

  •             An employer fires, demotes or refuses you a job because you have HIV.
  •             A health care worker refuses to help or give you treatment because you have HIV.

For more information, visit

According to Statistics SA around one in 10 South Africans are living with HIV (September 2015), 6.19 million South Africans, 11.2%, are living with the disease, out of an estimated total population of 54.95 million people.

The number of South Africans infected with HIV has increased by 2.17 million since 2002, when 4.02 million South Africans were living with the virus. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region worst-affected by HIV and AIDS.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the spread of HIV. These include: poverty; inequality and social instability; high levels of sexually transmitted infections; the low status of women; sexual violence; high mobility limited and uneven access to quality medical care; and a history of poor legacy in the response to the epidemic.