HIV Prevalence in South Africa Stabilizing, Report Says
A 2005 survey of pregnant women in South Africa showed "little increase" in HIV prevalence among pregnant women in 2004, indicating that the spread of the disease is "leveling out," according to a report released on Friday by the country's Department of Health, the AP/Forbes reports (Nullis, AP/Forbes, 7/21). The report is based on a survey conducted in October 2005 of 16,510 women at 399 prenatal clinics nationwide and utilizes UNAIDS and World Health Organization modeling and estimation methods, according to the health department (BuaNews, 7/23). According to the report, 30.2% of women in the survey tested HIV-positive in 2005, compared with 29.5% in 2004. From these results, the health department estimates 5.54 million South Africans are HIV-positive. Previous estimates put the figure at 5.7 million to 6.2 million people, which the report says were based on outdated calculation methods, the AP/Forbes reports (AP/Forbes, 7/21). The report also says that HIV prevalence among teenagers decreased from 16.1% in 2004 to 15.9% in 2005 (BuaNews, 7/23). According to the report, the figures for teens "might imply a sustained change in behavior among young people, including engaging in safer sexual practices such as being in mutually faithful relationships" (AP/Forbes, 7/21). In addition, the report indicates that people in the "20 to early 30 year age groups continue to have the highest infection rates" (BuaNews, 7/23). According to the report, 4.9 million people ages 15 to 49 are HIV-positive, which accounts for 18.8% of that age group. An estimated 235,000 South African children under age 14 are HIV-positive, many as a result of mother-to-child HIV transmission (AP/Forbes, 7/21). A health department release said the report "continues to confirm the expectation ... that South Africa will begin to see a decline in the prevalence profile." However, some health experts said the results indicate that new HIV cases are occurring at the same rate as deaths from AIDS-related complications (Reuters/San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/21). Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang in a forward to the report called the results "encouraging" but said a "great deal of work still needs to be done to ensure that new infections no longer take place at all in South Africa" (AP/Forbes, 7/21). The health department conducts the survey, known as the National HIV and Syphilis Antenatal Seroprevalence Survey, annually (BuaNews, 7/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.