HIV Prevalence Among Teenage Girls in Swaziland Lower Than Previously Estimated, UNICEF Report Says
About 6% of teenage girls in Swaziland are HIV-positive, significantly less than the 20% or more that previous studies have estimated, according to a UNICEF-sponsored study released on Friday, Reuters reports. Researchers selected, interviewed and tested more than 1,000 Swazis in randomly selected households in the country. The study represented the "first mass blood testing" in the country, where nearly 39% of adults are HIV-positive. According to the new study, approximately 40% of 19-year-old girls, 6% of 15- to 18-year-old girls and 3% of eight- to 14-year-old girls in Swaziland are HIV-positive. The earlier assumption that at least 20% of teenage girls were HIV-positive was based on a 2002 survey of pregnant women and women who had recently given birth at prenatal clinics from which HIV projections for other age groups were approximated, according to Alan Brody, Swaziland representative for UNICEF. Researchers assumed that because 40% of women at the clinics who were in their 20s were HIV-positive, teenagers in the African country would have a similar HIV prevalence. "We were confused because we were witnessing behavior change on the ground that was not reflected in the statistics. Girls wanted to protect themselves against AIDS," Brody said, adding, "We found a generational shift and a clear indication that anti-AIDS messages began to have an effect around 2001." Researchers said they did not gather enough data on men to assemble a statistically accurate model of HIV prevalence, according to Reuters (Hall, Reuters, 8/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.