6 October 2009
The prevalence of HIV/Aids among pregnant women in South Africa has stabilised at around 29%, according to the country’s latest antenatal HIV prevalence survey.
The National Antenatal HIV Prevalence Survey has been conducted annually in South Africa since 1990, and is one of the country’s most robust HIV/Aids surveillance methods, targeting pregnant women aged 15 to 49 during their first booking at a public antenatal care facility.
The latest survey is based on blood samples collected from 33 927 women in all nine provinces during October 2008.
The survey, released on Monday, indicates that the prevalence of HIV/Aids among pregnant women stabilised at 29.3% in 2008, compared to 29.4% in 2007 and 29% in 2006.
HIV prevalence among women under 20 increased from 13.1% in 2007 to 14.1% in 2008. Among women aged 15 to 24 it decreased from 22.1% to 21.7%, and among women aged 20 to 29 it rose marginally, from 37.5% to 37.9%.
HIV/Aids prevalance remained highest in the 30 to 34 age group, rising from 39.6% in 2007 to 40.4% in 2008.
Speaking at the release of the report in Pretoria, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said HIV/Aids continued to be one of the biggest challenges facing South Africa.
“What cannot be contested is that the burden of HIV/Aids is now weighing heavily on the shoulders of our country,” Motsoaledi said. “We need to work with academics and researchers as we continue to find new ways to respond to this challenge.”
Among the recommendations made by the report was to find ways of estimating HIV incidence as a measure of new infections and the success of interventions, and also to triangulate the available data to increase its explanatory power on the dynamics of the epidemic.
A country director from the US-based John Snow Research and Training Institute, Dr Rose Mulumba, said more efforts should be made to generate incidence figures to enable researchers to gauge the prevalence of new infections.
“This report covers both old and new cases,” Mulumba told BuaNews. “We still have to get the findings for incidence, then we will know for sure whether it’s stabilised or not. At the moment we can’t tell which are new cases, since the report is a combination of both.”
Lusanda Mahlalela, deputy director at Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa, encouraged all stakeholders to continue with the interventions they had in place while using the report to review these interventions.
“It’s not for the government alone to continue the fight against the epidemic; we should continue to work together in order to win this battle,” Mahlalela said.