Zuma: Fewer babies born with HIV

The rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission in South Africa is falling. (Gallo)

The rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission in South Africa is falling. (Gallo)

"In South Africa, we have been able to reduce both maternal and child mortality in the past three years," he told an African Union conference in Boksburg on Thursday. The theme of the event was maternal and health care on the continent.

"Mother-to-child transmission [of HIV] for instance, used to be 8.5% in 2008. It went down to 3.5% in 2010, and even more down to 2.7% in 2011.

"Since there are a million pregnancies per annum in South Africa, with approximately 30% HIV prevalence rate in pregnant women, it means that in 2008, a total of 25 000 children were born HIV positive in South Africa, but in 2011 there were 8 100.
This is a more than a 60% reduction," said Zuma.

While the figures for 2012 were still being verified, they were likely to be lower than those of 2011.

Zuma said reducing deaths of women and children during childbirth was one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for Africa to achieve by 2015.

Many had doubts that sub-Saharan African countries would be able to achieve the goal of significantly decreasing the mortality rate.

"It is generally believed that Africa in general, but sub-Saharan Africa in particular, is going to find it very difficult to achieve the health-related MDGs. Our view is that a lot can still be achieved in 900 days," he said.

Women's rights
One of several factors that could assist in achieving this goal was better food and nutrition for women and children, with government investment in farming projects around the country.

Zuma praised the event for coinciding with Women's Month in South Africa – a time when women's rights are highlighted. National Women's Day is on August 9.

The three-day AU conference runs until Saturday. It is also being attended by AU commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and delegates from across the world, including Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. – Sapa

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