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Mathematical models are widely used to simulate the effects of interventions to control HIV and to project future epidemiological trends and resource needs. We aimed to validate past model projections against data from a large household survey done in South Africa in 2012.We compared ten model projections of HIV prevalence, HIV incidence, and antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage for South Africa with estimates from national household survey data from 2012. Model projections for 2012 were made before the publication of the 2012 household survey. We compared adult (age 15-49 years) HIV prevalence in 2012, the change in prevalence between 2008 and 2012, and prevalence, incidence, and ART coverage by sex and by age groups between model projections and the 2012 household survey.All models projected lower prevalence estimates for 2012 than the survey estimate (18·8%), with eight models' central projections being below the survey 95% CI (17·5-20·3). Eight models projected that HIV prevalence would remain unchanged (n=5) or decline (n=3) between 2008 and 2012, whereas prevalence estimates from the household surveys increased from 16·9% in 2008 to 18·8% in 2012 (difference 1·9, 95% CI -0·1 to 3·9). Model projections accurately predicted the 1·6 percentage point prevalence decline (95% CI -0·3 to 3·5) in young adults aged 15-24 years, and the 2·2 percentage point (0·5 to 3·9) increase in those aged 50 years and older. Models accurately represented the number of adults on ART in 2012; six of ten models were within the survey 95% CI of 1·54-2·12 million. However, the differential ART coverage between women and men was not fully captured; all model projections of the sex ratio of women to men on ART were lower than the survey estimate of 2·22 (95% CI 1·73-2·71).Projections for overall declines in HIV epidemics during the ART era might have been optimistic. Future treatment and HIV prevention needs might be greater than previously forecasted. Additional data about service provision for HIV care could help inform more accurate projections.Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Original publication




Journal article


The Lancet. Global health

Publication Date





e598 - e608


Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London, London, UK. Electronic address:


Humans, HIV Infections, Anti-HIV Agents, Incidence, Prevalence, Models, Theoretical, Forecasting, Adolescent, Adult, Middle Aged, South Africa, Female, Male, Young Adult