HIV prevalence among antenatal women stabilized

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pretoria - The national HIV prevalence among antenatal women has stabilized at around 29 percent, according to the 2008 National Antenatal Sentinel HIV Prevalence Survey.

The results of the survey released on Monday showed that the prevalence among antenatal women has stabilized at 29.3 percent in 2008 compared to 29.4 percent in 2007.

It showed that HIV prevalence trends in less than 20 year age group showed a slight increase from 13.1 percent in 2007 to 14.1 percent in 2008.

In the age group of 15 to 24, the report showed a 0.4 percent decline with 21.7 percent in 2008 compared to 22.1 percent in 2007, while in the 20 to 29 year age group, prevalence remained stable from 37.5 percent in 2007 to 37.9 percent in 2008.

The highest prevalence estimated in the 30 to 34 age groups were 37 percent in 2006, 39.6 percent in 2007 and 40.4 percent in 2008.

Commenting on the report, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said HIV and AIDS continued to be one of the biggest challenges facing the country and reiterated government's commitment to working together with all sectors of society to continue the fight against HIV and AIDS.

"What cannot be contested is that the burden of HIV and AIDS is now weighing heavily on the shoulders of our country. We need to work with academics and researchers as we continue to find new ways to respond to this challenged," Dr Motsoaledi said.

He explained that the 2008 National Antenatal Sentinel HIV Prevalence Survey is a useful tool to observe trends. It allows the department to reinforce or increase the commitment to accelerate implementation, provide feedback to health workers as well as local and international groups involved in AIDS prevention and care programmes.

"For us, the antenatal sentinel surveillance programme remains an important indicator of prevalence in pregnant women who attend public health facilities."

Among the recommendations made by the report was to find ways of estimating HIV incidence as a measure of new infections and success of interventions and also encourage triangulation of the available data to increase the explanatory power of the dynamics of the epidemic.

A country director from the John Snow Research and Training Institute, Dr Rose Mulumba said more efforts should be made to generate incidence figures so that they can access for sure the prevalence of new infections.

"This report covers the old and new cases, we still have to get the findings for incidence, then we will know for sure whether it's stabilizes or not, at the moment we can't tell which are new cases since the report is a combination of both," Dr Mulumba told BuaNews.

Speaking to BuaNews Deputy Director at Johns Hopkins, Health and Education in South Africa, Lusanda Mahlalela encouraged all stakeholders to continue with the interventions they have and use the report to review their current interventions.

"It's not for government alone to continue the fight against the epidemic but we should continue to work together in order to win this battle."