HIV Prevalence Among Young Women in South Africa Triple the Rate Among Young Men, Survey Shows
Women ages 15 to 24 in South Africa are substantially more likely to be HIV-positive than their male counterparts, according to a study published in the Sept. 23 issue of the journal AIDS, the SAPA/iafrica.com reports (SAPA/iafrica.com, 9/22). Audrey Pettifor and colleagues from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of California-San Francisco and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa from March 2003 to August 2003 conducted household surveys and HIV tests among 11,904 15- to 24-year-olds across South Africa, finding that 15.5% of the women and 4.8% of the men tested HIV-positive. The study also examined the extent to which men and women engaged in risky behaviors, including having a larger number of sexual partners and using condoms inconsistently, both of which were associated with HIV infection.
The study found that 85% of young men and women were aware of loveLife, South Africa's national HIV prevention program for youth, and that more than one-third had participated in at least one of loveLife's programs. Men and women who had participated in loveLife were significantly less likely than those who had not participated in the program to be HIV-positive (UNC release, 9/20). The program, which began in 1999 and is organized under the auspices of an independent trust governed by leading South Africans, aims to reduce the number of HIV infections among youth through youth-friendly services in government clinics and outreach programs in schools, combined with a high-profile HIV education and awareness campaign. LoveLife's major funders include the South African government, the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Kaiser Family Foundation (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/15). "[T]he results of our survey are a hopeful sign that the country's efforts to find ways to curb the spread of the HIV epidemic, specifically through loveLife, may be making a difference in the lives of these young people," Pettifor said (UNC release, 9/20). HIV testing for the survey was conducted anonymously and participants were told they would not receive the results of the test (SAPA/iafrica.com, 9/22).