NEW HIV infections in South Africa have fallen by a third since 2004, according to a report handed to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on Friday.

Between 2004 and 2012, the number of new HIV infections fell from an estimated 540,000 to 370,000, the report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) showed.

"The general message is that it’s good news," said UNAIDS country co-ordinator for South Africa Dr Catherine Sozi.

Speaking at an event in Durban, where the report was handed to Mr Motlanthe, she said the figures were compiled from a variety of sources, including the 2011 census and surveys.

The number of AIDS deaths fell by 30% from 330,000 in 2004 to 240,000 in 2012, and were projected to fall to less than 150,000 in 2016.

Dr Sozi said government’s increased roll-out of the antiretroviral (ARV) therapy programme had averted an estimated 780,000 deaths between 2004 and 2012.

Most of these, about 250,000, were estimated to have been in KwaZulu-Natal, the epicentre of the pandemic.

About 2.7-million people received antiretroviral drugs in South Africa, making it the largest ARV programme in the world, said Dr Sozi.

Most of those receiving treatment were women.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the department hoped to have 4.6-million people taking ARVs by 2016.

He said it was important that every South African be tested for the disease at least once a year.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the mother-to-child transmission rate had fallen from 20.5% in 2005 to 2.1% in 2011. The national average stood at 2.7%.

According to the report, the number of new infections among children under the age of 15 had fallen from 90,000 in 2004 to less than 10,000 in 2013.

Children under 15 accounted for only 6% of new infections compared with 15% in 2004.

In 2012, the number of children who had lost one or both parents to the disease was estimated to be 2.5-million.