Report shows decline in child, teenage HIV

The prevalence of HIV in children and teenagers has dropped, a national survey has found.

The study showed that HIV prevalence in children aged between two and 14 had declined from 5,6% in 2002 to 2,5% in 2008, said Human Sciences Research Council chief executive officer Dr Olive Shisana.

“The good news is that the change in HIV prevalence is most likely attributable to the successful implementation of several HIV interventions,” she said.

The findings of the third, national HIV prevalence, incidence and communication survey, conducted in 2008, were a sign of light at the end of the tunnel, said Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

The survey was conducted by the HSRC, the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Centre for Aids Development, Research and Evaluation, and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Its results, released on Tuesday, showed that HIV intervention programmes were beginning to pay handsome dividends, said Shisana.

The report showed that HIV prevalence among people aged between 15 and 49 dropped between 2002 and 2008 in the Western Cape, Gauteng, Northern Cape and the Free State.

Of concern, however, were increases of 10,1% in the same age group in KwaZulu-Natal, and 5% in the Eastern Cape, with smaller increases in the North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Another challenge the survey identified was a persistent level of HIV prevalence in females aged 25 and 29. The level has remained at 33% in the past three surveys.

Shisana said the study showed an increase in condom use among young males aged between 15 and 24, from 57% in 2002 to 87% in 2008. In females of the same age, there was also an increase, from 46% to 73%.

“The finding shows that although they are running around, they do use condoms to protect themselves from contracting HIV,” she said.

Condom use also grew among people aged between 25 and 49.

Speaking after the report was tabled, Motsoaledi, who was appointed last month, said the results of the survey were encouraging.

“I feel very happy that there is a clear instrument that we will use to fight the disease.
I believe that we can do better that what has been done so far.”

He said it was unfortunate that too much time had been spent fighting each other instead of fighting the HIV pandemic in South Africa.

He was referring to the relationship of his predecessor, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, with HIV-stakeholders during her two terms in office.

Motsoaledi said he would sit down with the directors of Khomanani, a government HIV communication programme to make sure that it reached wide range of people.

The survey found that Khomanani, which is highly funded, had the lowest reach compared to other programmes such as Soul City and Love Life.

The report recommends that HIV testing be “routinely offered to all patients who visit health facilities”.

It also recommends that HIV negative people be provided with risk-reduction counselling to prevent them contracting the syndrome after testing.

The number of people who did HIV tests had increased dramatically, the survey found. Shisana said this could be attributed to the fact that people were encouraged by the government’s antiretroviral drugs roll-out. - Sapa

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