Number of HIV Cases in South Africa Rose 12 Percent in 2002; Government Says Epidemic Slowing
September 11, 2003
The number of HIV-positive people in South Africa increased 12% in 2002, but the spread of the epidemic may be slowing down, according to a report released by the South African Department of Health yesterday, Reuters/AlertNet reports (Reuters/AlertNet, 9/10). The data are based on a national prenatal survey conducted in October 2002, which gathered HIV and syphilis information from 16,500 pregnant women at 396 state-run prenatal clinics throughout the country. Extrapolations based on a model developed by the national health department estimate that the total number of HIV-positive people in the country grew from 4.74 million in 2001 to 5.3 million in 2002 (Caelers, Cape Argus/IOL, 9/10). The study found that HIV prevalence for pregnant women under age 20 remained stable for the fourth year in a row. According to SAPA/News24, the HIV prevalence among this age group is considered to be the most accurate indicator of whether new infections are on the rise. "These findings support the view that, although the HIV infection rate is high in South Africa, there has been a significant slowing down in the spread of the epidemic and South Africa can be considered to have a slow-developing epidemic," the report said, adding that the country's epidemic had the characteristics of mature HIV epidemics around the world (SAPA/News24, 9/10). Approximately 34.5% of pregnant women ages 25 to 29 in South Africa are HIV-positive, and about 29.5% of pregnant women ages 30 to 34 are HIV-positive (SAPA/News24, 9/10). According to the study, KwaZulu-Natal province had the highest HIV prevalence rate -- 36.5% -- in South Africa, followed by Guateng at 31.6% and Western Cape at 12.4% (Kahn, Business Day, 9/10). The study also found that 90,000 infants contracted HIV from their mothers in 2002, roughly equivalent to 250 cases of vertical HIV transmission each day (Reuters/AlertNet, 9/10).
Advocates Challenge Interpretation
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