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HIV Prevalence Drops Among Pregnant Women in South Africa

There’s some encouraging news about HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The health minister says the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among pregnant women has fallen for the first time in eight years. It's down about one percent to 29 percent .

South Africa has led the world in HIV infections for many years and some estimates say as many as one thousand people a day die of the disease.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. She spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the significance of a decline in HIV prevalence among pregnant women.

“It could be quite significant because…the prevalence rate amongst pregnant women is used globally as an indicator for prevalence in the rest of the population. So, this could have an important meaning in South Africa in the context of its AIDS pandemic because it may indicate that in fact prevalence rates are starting to decline,” she says.

Describing South Africa’s efforts to prevent HIV infection, Robertson says, “It’s quite comprehensive. We have free condoms that are handed out in all sorts of places, even on street corners, in fact. So that’s one part of it. The other part of it is publicity campaigns, although there was some controversy about the fact that there was an interruption in those campaigns for several months. And then there are a lot of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and so on working in the education field. And I think more and more companies are now starting also to have education campaigns helping the employees understand the implications of certain behaviors.”

While the new report indicates a decline in the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among pregnant women in South Africa, the country’s overall prevalence rate remains high. “The highest in the world. It’s around…11.5 percent currently, according to this latest study, down very slightly from 12 percent. I do think though that it’s worth noting that sometimes you get drops in surveys and studies. And in order to know for sure whether rates are coming down you need to see that happening over more than one year. It needs to happen over several years.”