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Prevalence of HIV in pregnant women decreases in SA

by Gabi Khumalo
on 06 Jun 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

The prevalence of the human immune deficiency virus (HIV) among pregnant women aged between 15 and 19 in South Africa has continued to decrease over the past two years, says Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

Presenting her department's Budget Vote in Parliament on Thursday, Minister Tshabalala-Msimang said the preliminary findings of the latest survey of HIV prevalence among pregnant women attending public antenatal clinics demonstrate a downward trend in prevalence.

"The 2007 survey shows that HIV prevalence has decreased from an estimated 29.2 percent in 2006 to 28.0 percent in 2007.

"HIV prevalence in the 15 to 19 age group dropped from 13.7 percent in 2006 to 12.9 percent in 2007 as well as a decrease was observed in the 25 to 29 year age group from 38.7 percent in 2006 to 37.9 percent in 2007," the minister said.

The HIV prevalence rate in the 20 to 24 age group stabilised between 2006 and 2007.

"Taken together, these figures do indeed suggest that we have a trend of decreasing prevalence overall and in the younger age cohort and this trend is in line with the predictions of the United Nations AIDS agency Spectrum model," said Ms Tshabalala-Msimang.

She said these encouraging trends were due to intensive prevention campaigns which were beginning to make a difference in reducing HIV infections.

A full report detailing findings of the survey on the prevalence of HIV and syphilis in the country will be released within the next few weeks.

The minister also announced progress in providing treatment to those living with HIV and AIDS.

By the end of February 2008, the department had cumulatively initiated more than 450 000 patients on antiretroviral treatment in more than 310 accredited sites across nine provinces.

This number, which makes the programme the largest in the world contradicts those voices that suggest that this government is not concerned about treatment, Minister Tshabalala-Msimang said.

The improvement of hospitals through Hospital Revitalisation Programme was allocated an additional R600 million, an increase to R2.883 billion.

The programme currently covers 47 hospitals that are at different levels of construction across the country.

Ms Tshabalala-Msimang said three other hospitals; Barkley West in the Northern Cape, Dilokong and Nkhensani in Limpopo Province will be completed during the current financial year.

Concerns were raised about the continued inequities in the utilisation of the country's resources between the public and private health sectors with the private sector remaining inaccessible mainly because of escalating fees charged.

"Of the R118 billion that was spent in the health sector in South Africa in 2007/08, R66.4 billion was private sector expenditure, which serves about seven million South Africans, while R51.6 billion was utilised in the public health sector, which provides services to about 40 million people," the minister said.

The department has submitted the National Health Amendment Bill to Parliament, which seeks to address this challenge.

The Bill provides for the appointment of a facilitator to work with funders [medical schemes] and private healthcare providers to seek agreement on tariffs for health care services provided by the private health sector.

The minister explained that the process should bring some transparency into the process of tariff setting in the private health care sector and assist the department to contain the costs.

"The intention of this Bill is to secure the sustainability of the private health sector in our country and not to destroy it as has been suggested in some quarters," she said. - BuaNews


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