One in three women at clinics are HIV-positive

Time of article published Nov 30, 2011

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Anso Thom, Kerry Cullinan and SAPA

Nearly one in three women attending public sector antenatal clinics in SA were likely to be HIV-positive.

And the country continues to have high HIV infection rates among 15- to 24-year-old pregnant women and increasingly so among 10- to 14-year-olds, the latest Department of Health survey has revealed.

In KwaZulu-Natal, four out of every 10 pregnant women were HIV-positive in 2010, the annual National Antenatal Sentinel HIV and Syphilis Prevalence found.

Although the 2010 survey shows an almost 1 percent (0.8 percent) increase in HIV prevalence, it was considered to be statistically insignificant.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi released the results of the survey yesterday, and announced a 30.2 percent national HIV prevalence among antenatal women.

The prevalence was 29.4 percent in 2009, 29.3 percent in 2008 and 29.4 percent in 2007.

“We’re still far from winning the war, but we are getting somewhere,” Motsoaledi said.

Using World Health Organisation (WHO) modelling, it was estimated that 5.575 million South Africans were living with HIV in 2010.

Of these, 518 000 were estimated to be children under 15 and almost 3 million were adult females over 15.

The WHO model also estimated that there were more than 300 000 new HIV infections for adults over 15 years in 2010.

A big concern was the fact that the HIV trend among young people (15 to 24) was not showing a decline.

The survey also found that some of the pregnant women were young adolescents who were HIV-infected. Of the 121 10- to 14-year-olds, 11 (almost 10 percent) were HIV-positive.

The report called for a comprehensive strategy focusing on this age group.

The 2010 findings, produced by a so-called tree model, showed that the significant contributor to the high HIV prevalence was a small group of less than 8 000 pregnant and unmarried African women aged 27 years and over, where the HIV prevalence is 48.7 percent.

KwaZulu-Natal was found to be a full 5 percent higher than the next worst province, Mpumalanga (35.1 percent).

The Free State (30.6 percent) and Gauteng (30.4 percent) vied for third-worst spot.

They were followed very closely by the Eastern Cape (29.9 percent) and North West (29.6 percent). The Western Cape was at 18.5 percent, Limpopo 21.9 percent and Northern Cape 18.4 percent.

The Umgungundlovu and iLembe districts in KwaZulu-Natal recorded the highest HIV rate for pregnant women in the country (42.3 percent). The Umkhanyakude, eThekwini and Ugu districts, all in KZN, also recorded prevalence rates of over 40 percent.

KZN also has the highest number of teen pregnancies, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, the Central Karoo recorded the lowest rate in the country at 8.5 percent.

While the figures were still within the government’s parameters, Motsoaledi said it would still continue to increase its ARV rollout and HIV/Aids prevention strategies.

“As many pregnant women as possible must be on ARVs,” he said.

“We believe our prevention methods might be reaching stability. With the younger ones the prevention methods may be working,” said Motsoaledi. – Health-e News Service

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