10-year-old girls HIV positive and pregnant

2011-12-03 15:39

Can the sugar-daddy era be the cause of younger girls getting infected?

Girls as young as 10 are falling pregnant and testing HIV positive, raising fears that they are engaging in intergenerational sex.

A new survey released this week found HIV prevalence among 10- to 14-year-old pregnant girls was around 9.1%.

Dr Thabang Mosala, who heads the national department of health’s epidemiology and surveillance unit said anecdotal evidence suggested that intergenerational sex was one of the drivers of HIV in young girls.

“Many young girls in this country get into relationships with older men for survival. This is especially so in places where unemployment is high and poverty is rife,” she said.

Mosala said government was concerned about this and was looking at ways to address social, economic and behavioural factors that drive HIV among adolescents and the youth.

“Plans include preventing girls from having sex at an early age because studies have shown that young females become HIV positive five years earlier than males of the same age,” she said.

A comprehensive reproductive health services package in schools and for out-of-school youth is one of the new measures outlined in the new five-year national strategic plan launched on Thursday.

The plan also states that prevention strategies targeting men and women who have partners much younger or older than themselves will be rolled out.

The 10- to 14-year-olds have been neglected in the country’s HIV prevention strategies, Mosala said. “Even when we did antenatal surveys in the past we left them out because we thought they were not as badly affected by HIV.

“But the reality is, 10-year-olds are getting pregnant in this country and HIV prevalence among them is on the increase.”

For the first time last year, government included 10- to 14-year-old pregnant girls in the yearly national antenatal sentinel HIV and syphilis prevalence survey.

The findings released this week showed that HIV prevalence among pregnant girls between the ages of 10 to 19 was increasing.

It showed 9.1% of the 121 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 surveyed were HIV positive and 14% of the 6 171 girls aged 15 to 19 who participated were HIV positive too.

About 32 000 pregnant girls and women who present themselves for antenatal care at hospitals during the month of October are surveyed each year.

The aim is to provide a clear picture on HIV prevalence and incidence in the general population.

Dr Khangelani Zuma, research director at the Human Sciences Research Council, noted with concern the increasing HIV prevalence in adolescents in provinces that previously were not as badly affected by HIV, like the Western and Northern Cape.

“When you compare Western Cape (which had the lowest rate) to KwaZulu-Natal, with the highest, you see a disturbing picture. Statistics on HIV prevalence on 10- to 24-year-olds in KwaZulu-Natal are going down, which indicates that new HIV infections among young people are decreasing while in the Cape they’re going up,” he explained.

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