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Child, teen HIV down - study

2009-06-09 12:27

Durban - 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 2 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.

Condom use up

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.

Shisana said the study also showed an increase in condom use among young males aged between 15 and 24, which was up 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.

Results 'encouraging'

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 epidemic 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 Lovelife.

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