The 2011 Antenatal Prevalence Survey released yesterday indicated that 29.5% of women who had become pregnant for the first time were HIV-positive and that the HIV rate is not dropping.
This represented little change from the percentage recorded in 2007 - 29.4%. The survey is used by the World Health Organisation and UNAids to "estimate the rate of new HIV infections". HIV Clinicians Society President Dr Francesca Conradie said: "We would like the antenatal prevalence to be going down."
Conradie said awareness campaigns - such as advertising advocating safe sex and condom use - were not efficient in stopping the pandemic in South Africa. "Ask a random sample of people and they will all know about HIV. We have posters everywhere." Conradie said: "The best way to stop HIV is to keep girls in school - not pregnant and HIV-negative."
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said it was unfortunate that 6289 of the 33446 women in the survey were between 16 and 24 years old. It was clear teen pregnancy remained a problem, he said. It is estimated that 17.3% of the entire SA population is infected with HIV.
While the rate of new infections has been roughly the same over the past four years nationally, KwaZulu-Natal showed a notable decrease in HIV prevalence in that time period - from 39.5% to 37.4%.
Motsoaledi praised improved health initiatives in KwaZulu-Natal , saying each district mayor reported to the South African National Aids Council four times a year on the roll-out of antiretrovirals and maternal mortality in their district.
"Even radio managers [have] sat on the council, along with traditional and religious leaders," he said. However, prevalence rates in Mpumalanga have increased. The district with the highest prevalence of HIV is Gert Sibande in Mpumalanga with 46.1%. "We need [an] in-depth epidemiological study to see why this is taking place," said Motsoaledi.
He called for males in the district to be circumcised. While KwaZulu-Natal has shown a decrease in its infection rate, it remains the province with the highest prevalence of HIV among first-time pregnant women with 37.4%, followed by Mpumalanga with 36.7%, Free State with 32.5% and North West with 30.2%.
The prevalence rates in Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Gauteng were between 20% and 30%. In the Northern Cape and the Western Cape, the prevalence rates were below 20%.
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