New South African Data Show at Least 6.29M HIV-Positive People in Country
Between 6.29 million and 6.57 million people in South Africa are estimated to be HIV-positive, compared with 5.6 million people in December 2003, according to a study recently released by the country's Department of Health, Reuters AlertNet reports. The new figures are extrapolated from the HIV test results of women who visited prenatal clinics in 2004. The data show that 29.5% of the pregnant women who were tested were HIV-positive, compared with 27.9% of pregnant women in 2003 (Quinn, Reuters AlertNet, 7/11). The survey also found that women in their early 20s and 30s are most at risk of contracting HIV, with 38.5% of pregnant women ages 25 to 29 living with the virus (Xinhua News Agency, 7/11). The province of KwaZulu-Natal recorded the highest percentage of HIV-positive pregnant women at 40%, and Western Cape had the lowest HIV prevalence in the population at 15.4%. Free State, North West and Mpumalanga were the only provinces that experienced a decline in HIV prevalence among pregnant women (Kahn, Business Day, 7/11).
The release of the new data likely will add to the debate over the extent of South Africa's HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to Reuters AlertNet. Some health experts have said that using data collected from prenatal clinics overstates the number of HIV-positive people on the continent. South African health department officials acknowledged that the data assume that HIV prevalence among all pregnant women in the country is equivalent to that among women visiting prenatal clinics and that HIV prevalence for all women ages 15 to 49 is the same among pregnant women. The health department's new figures differ from a May study by Statistics South Africa that estimated 4.5 million South Africans are HIV-positive (Reuters AlertNet, 7/11). UNAIDS estimates released in July 2004 showed that about 5.3 million HIV-positive people live in South Africa, with a possible range of between 4.5 million and 6.2 million (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/18).