SOUTH AFRICA: HIV rate among pregnant women stays high

Photo: Glenna Gordon/IRIN
HIV rates varied widely between districts
Johannesburg, 6 October 2009 (PlusNews) - The rate of HIV infection among pregnant women in South Africa has remained stubbornly high at around 29 percent for the third year running, according to government figures released on 5 October.

The 2008 National Antenatal HIV and Syphilis Prevalence Survey - based on blood samples from 34,000 pregnant women who attended antenatal clinics in 52 health districts - measured HIV prevalence at 29.3 percent, compared to 29.4 percent in 2007 and 29.0 percent in 2006.

Prevalence among women aged 15 to 24 declined slightly from 22.1 percent in 2007 to 21.7 percent in 2008, but the infection rate among women in the 30 to 34 age group rose from 39.6 percent in 2007 to 40.4 percent in 2008.

Age was found to be the most important risk factor, with women of 22 years or older significantly more likely to be HIV-infected. In this age group, race was the next most important factor, with 37.6 percent of African women infected, compared to 6.8 percent of white, Asian and coloured (mixed race) women.

"Prevalence among women aged 25 years and above has stabilized at high and unacceptable levels," Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said at the launch of the survey.

He refused to comment on the success or failure of interventions aimed at combating South Africa's HIV/AIDS epidemic, noting only that the survey was "a useful tool" for observing trends, providing feedback to health workers, and increasing the commitment to an accelerated response.

The figures revealed wide variations between the country's nine provinces: as in previous years, KwaZulu-Natal Province recorded the highest prevalence (38.7 percent) and Western Cape the lowest (16.1 percent); at district level the disparities were even greater - in some the infection rate was as high as 45 percent, in others as low as 5 percent.

The survey authors strongly recommended that the health department conduct more in-depth epidemiological surveys to investigate the causes of these wide disparities.


See also: SOUTH AFRICA: Questions about new prevalence survey

Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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Mamaribe Hata-Hata, 17, nurses her sick father
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