HIV Rates Among South African Teens Slowing, Official Says
HIV infection rates among South African teenagers are slowing, indicating that teens are practicing safer sex, the country's top health official said on Thursday, Reuters Health reports. The Department of Health released the data in anticipation of its annual survey of HIV rates at public antenatal clinics, which is expected to be officially released within the next two weeks. The decline in the rate of HIV, as well as a decline in the rate of syphilis, "denote[s] wider use of condoms and greater knowledge of the dangers of unprotected intercourse," according to Reuters Health. These "[s]igns of change in sexual attitudes" come as "welcome news" in South Africa, where one in 10 people is HIV-positive. South African teenage girls, who on average begin engaging in sex at 12 years old compared to an international average age of 17, are "most vulnerable to the disease," and rape has reached "high levels," partly due to a "misplaced belief that AIDS can be cured by sex with a virgin." Initiatives such as loveLife, which seeks to halve the HIV infection rate among 15- to 20-year-olds in the next five years, have "targeted" HIV prevention messages to teenagers in the national media. LoveLife estimates that more than 60% of all new HIV infections occur in those between the ages of 15 and 25. The national antenatal survey, the "most authoritative official measure of the extent of HIV/AIDS" in South Africa, showed that although there was "no (overall) statistical increase from last year," there was an increase in infections in those between the ages of 25 and 35 (Swindells, Reuters Health, 3/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.