HIV stabilising, but ‘more must be done’

12 November 2010

While South Africa’s latest antenatal prevalence survey shows a stabilisation in the country’s HIV prevalence rate since 2006, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi wants more to be done to implement the government’s plans to combat the epidemic.

The survey, released in Pretoria this week, shows that South Africa’s HIV prevalence has remained constant at around 29 percent over the past four years.

The 2009 National Antenatal Sentinel HIV and Syphilis Prevalence survey was conducted in all nine provinces and 52 health districts, where 337 841 pregnant women booking into 1 457 public antenatal clinics for the first time were 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,” Motsoaledi said.

He added that it remained to be seen how far South Africa was from achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in this age group – the MDG target for 2015 is a reduction by 25 percent, to an HIV prevalence rate of 17.3 percent.

The HIV prevalence among women in the 30 to 34 age group showed an increase, from 39.6 percent in 2007 and 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.

Socio-economic factors

As in previous years, KwaZulu-Natal had 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 had prevalences of between 20 percent and 30 percent.

Motsoaledi noted that KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape had the same socio-economic conditions when it came to HIV.

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

Motsoaledi acknowledged that while he was satisfied that the government had done everything possible with regards to HIV/Aids intervention on paper, he was concerned as to whether it was being implemented on the ground.

“We are reviewing this,” he said.

Source: BuaNews