Efforts on safe sex education and on other risky behaviours that drive HIV/AIDS need to be “re-doubled” if there is to be any hope in reducing the country’s extraordinarily high annual 125 000 death rate.

“It’s not that HIV needs to be in every conversation but we’ve become so complacent that we forget about just how heavy a burden of disease it is on our economy with 25% to 27% of our people being HIV positive,” Barry Childs, of Insight Actuaries and Consultants, told SA Health Industry Summit delegates yesterday.

Putting this into perspective in terms of recent pandemic experiences, he alluded to the approximate 275000 overall deaths due to COVID over a two-year period: “It’s important to bear that number in context. We lose about 450,000 South Africans every year, that is about 1300 a day. Not a number that you would ordinarily think about in the course of your daily life but you know, when we are reporting on daily COVID deaths, that kind of number is important to bear in mind from a context point of view.

“But 125000 of these a year are going to be from HIV and TB,” Childs added.

“That’s every year and it’s on an ongoing basis. We’re not worrying about waves, we’re not reporting every day about how many people are dying from HIV and TB, but that’s the level of burden of disease we’ve become complacent with as a country.”

Efforts to address these and other health burdens needed to be collaborative, he intimated, acknowledging that there had been some examples of very effective partnerships and collaboration between the sectors in dealing with COVID issues: “But it also showed just how much work we have to do to make that a much smoother, slicker process. I remember very late night talking about what it would cost to transfer a COVID patient from a public sector hospital to a private sector hospital with Department of Health officials.

“If there was more time and planning I suppose we could have done a better job. But it showed that it’s possible and it showed that at need it can be done, but we need to be deliberate about it and plan for it as opposed to just react in an emergency.”