The right to adequate health care has been enshrined in the constitution, but provision represents a major challenge. Private health facilities can meet the demands of those who can afford to pay, although the cost of hospitalization, treatment, and medical aid subscriptions is soaring. For the majority who cannot afford to pay, current government plans emphasize primary health care that provides a comprehensive package of health-care services. Payment for treatment in provincial hospitals is based on a patient’s financial means. A proposed national health insurance program is being developed for the first time. Since 1994 free health treatment has been available to children under six years old and some mothers before and after birth.
South Africa’s infant mortality rate is very high for a country with its level of income. In 2009 the rate was 44 deaths per 1,000 live births. This figure conceals great differences between racial groups because the white figure is less than one-fifth the national average.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has become a problem of epidemic proportions in South Africa. In 2007 an estimated 5,400,000 South Africans were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. Tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and measles are also prevalent diseases. Much of the black and Coloured population suffers high incidences of TB, measles, and other infectious and contagious diseases such as gastroenteritis and respiratory infections.
Malaria is endemic in the low-altitude areas of Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga, and eastern KwaZulu-Natal. For whites the main causes of death are stroke, heart disease, and cancer.
Social welfare services are provided by government agencies and the private sector, sometimes working in cooperation. Private sector initiatives like Operation Hunger and child welfare societies make a major contribution. The government proposes to create a more integrated welfare system that will harness state and private sector resources more effectively.
It is committed to affirmative action to address inherited racial inequalities. Children are a particular focus, with programs under way to resolve the plight of homeless street children and legislate against child abuse and child labor. "South Africa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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