HIV rates among pregnant women 'stabilising'
The HIV prevalence rate among women attending antenatal clinics around the country appears to be "stabilising" at about 30 percent, MPs hear.
Briefing Parliament's health portfolio committee, senior health department official Yogan Pillay said KwaZulu-Natal remained the province with the highest prevalence rate.
"With respect to HIV prevalence... the number seems to be stabilising [at] around 30 percent. The challenge now is to ensure we interpret this number correctly," he said.
More and more people on antiretrovirals (ARVs) were living longer.
"People living longer means prevalence will go up."
In an overview of the prevalence of HIV among antenatal attendees, Pillay said the rate had increased in seven of the country's nine provinces between 2009 and 2010.
"In KwaZulu-Natal, the rate appears to be stabilising at just under 40 percent for 2009/10... but the province has the highest prevalence rate, there's no doubt about that."
The five districts that recorded the highest rates in the country were all in that province. These were:
- Umkhanyakude, where the rate was 41.9 percent;
- eThekwini, 41.1 percent;
- uMgungundlovu, 42.3 percent;
- iLembe, 42.3 percent; and,
- Ugu, 41.1 percent.
North West had experienced a small decline - from 30 percent in 2009, to 29.6 percent in 2010.
The Western Cape had the lowest HIV prevalence rate in the country, at 18.5 percent, with the Central Karoo district in that province showing the lowest rate in the country at 0.8 percent.
Pillay said a total of 617,147 new patients were started on antiretroviral treatment in 2011/12, compared to 418 677 the year before.
A total of 9.6 million South Africans had "accepted" HIV testing and counselling in 2011/12.
On the provision of free male condoms, he said just over 397 million were distributed in that year, against a target of one billion.
The distribution of free male condoms is seen as one of the mainstays of government's HIV/Aids campaign.
"We had a fairly significant challenge with male condoms... we had set a target of one billion male condoms distributed free... [but] we were only able to purchase and distribute just under 400 million male condoms.
"The problems were that there was a global shortage of latex, used to make the condoms, [and] we also had a significant delay in provinces registering."
Pillay said the distribution of free male condoms had been delegated to the provinces in 2010, and they had "experienced many challenges" with vendors.
On the mother-to-child transmission rate of HIV, Pillay said this was dropping rapidly.
"Our figures suggest that in 2008, the transmission was eight percent... in 2010 (according to a Medical Research Council) study, the transmission rate had dropped to 3.5 percent. When they repeated the survey in 2011/12, the figure [had] dropped to 2.7 percent."