HIV Prevalence in South Africa Declines Among Pregnant Women, Report Says
The national HIV prevalence among pregnant women in South Africa has decreased for the first time in eight years, according to a report officially released last week by the country's Department of Health, Reuters reports. The report's findings might indicate a possible decline in HIV/AIDS prevalence among the country's entire population, according to Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang (Felix/Zigomo, Reuters, 8/2).
The report, based on antenatal surveys conducted in all nine provinces in South Africa, found national HIV prevalence among pregnant women was 29.1% in 2006, down from 30.2% in 2005. The report also showed statistically significant declines in HIV prevalence among people younger than age 20 - from 15.9% to 13.7% -- as well as ages 20 to 24 - from 30.6% to 28% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/25). The report is based on results from a survey with 33,000 women who visited antenatal clinics in 2006 (Jacobson, AP/Washington Post, 8/2).
Prevalence among women ages 30 to 34, 35 to 39, and 40 and older increased, but not by a statistically significant margin, according to the report (Adams, IOL/Star, 8/3). The decline in prevalence among people under age 20 "implies a reduction in new infections (incidence) in the population," according to the report. "For the first time, the findings of this survey show evidence of a decline in HIV prevalence in South Africa after several years of relative stability," the report notes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/25). According to Tshabalala-Msimang, the report's findings indicate that young people in South Africa are changing their behavior and increasingly adhering to the principles of condom use, faithfulness and abstinence, Reuters reports (Reuters, 8/2).
Lindiwe Makubalo, chief director for monitoring and evaluation at the health department, said the trend would need to be observed carefully for confirmation in the next three years. From the report, the health department was able to determine that the number of people estimated to be HIV-positive in the country is about 5.41 million, compared with the previous estimate of 5.54 million. Overall HIV prevalence among people ages 15 to 49 is estimated at 18.34%, according to the IOL/Star (IOL/Star, 8/3).
The report is available online.