SA's HIV antenatal figures stabilises

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pretoria - The HIV Antenatal Prevalence Survey in South Africa has shown a stabilisation in the HIV prevalence rate since 2006, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced today.

The survey showed HIV has remained constant at around 29 percent in the past four years.

Aiming to monitor HIV prevalence trends over time, the 2009 National Antenatal Sentinel HIV and Syphilis Prevalence was conducted in all nine provinces and 52 health districts, where 33 841 pregnant women first time bookers were recruited from 1 457 public antenatal clinics sampled during October.

The report, presented by Motsoaledi on Thursday, showed that HIV prevalence remained constant among 15 to 24-year-old pregnant women with 21.7 percent in 2009. This was the same as the figure in 2008, which was a decline of 0.4 percent from 22.1 percent in 2007.

"This is the most important group to provide evidence when monitoring new HIV infections incidence," Dr Motsoaledi noted.

He added that it remained to be seen how far the country was from achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in this age group - the MDG target for 2015 is a reduction by 25 percent, which is 17.3 percent.

The HIV prevalence among women in the 30 to 34 age group showed an increased, from 39.6 percent in 2007, 40.4 percent in 2008 to 41.5 percent in 2009. The department will observe this age group closely to assess what impact ARV treatment has.

As in previous years, KwaZulu-Natal has the highest HIV prevalence followed by Mpumalanga and Free State with overall prevalence greater than 30 percent. The North West, Limpopo, Gauteng and Eastern Cape have prevalence of between 20 percent and 30 percent.

Dr Motsoaledi noted that KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Eastern Cape have the same socio-economic conditions, however when it comes to HIV Limpopo and Eastern Cape are better compared to KZN.

He believed the non-circumcision practice in KwaZulu-Natal may have contributed to the high prevalence rate. "In KwaZulu-Natal they haven't been practicing circumcision for almost 200 years, we think that somehow this has contributed to the high prevalence," Dr Motsoaledi said.

Umgungundlovu and eThekwini have over the past four years featured constantly with a prevalence rate of between 40 and 45 percent.

The Northern Cape and Western Cape were the only provinces that had HIV prevalence rates below 20 percent.

Dr Motsoaledi acknowledged that while he was satisfied that government had done everything with regards to HIV and Aids intervention on paper, he was concerned on whether it was happening and being implemented on the ground. "We are reviewing this, he said.

Mark Haywood SANAC Deputy Chairperson of SANAC said the figures show that there was a need for enormous efforts to act. "We still have unacceptable high HIV prevalence. The message is that we have to step up the HIV campaign and treatment."