AIDS Care Watch

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Western Cape to target HIV hot spots after survey

By, Tamar Kahn, BusinessDay, December 18, 2007

CAPE TOWN — Western Cape would step up its drive against HIV in hot spots identified by its latest district survey of pregnant women attending public clinics, health MEC Pierre Uys said last week.

The survey has been conducted yearly for seven years, and shows important trends and variations in HIV prevalence among the province’s 25 health districts.

HIV prevalence last year ranged from 3,9% in the Little Karoo to 32,7% in Khayelitsha.

In line with the national ante-natal clinic survey of HIV and syphilis prevalence, Western Cape reported a slight overall decline in HIV between 2005 and last year, and a drop in HIV prevalence among very young pregnant women.

The provincial average fell slightly from 15,7% in 2005 to 15,1% last year, with the figure for women under the age of 24 dropping from 12,8% to 11,9% year on year.

Women aged 25-29 years bore the brunt of HIV infection in Western Cape, and this age group saw the greatest rate of increase over the past decade, rising from 7,9% in 1997 to 21,1% last year.

The national survey found prevalence rates that were almost double that of Western Cape, with HIV prevalence dropping slightly from 30,2% in 2005 to 29,1% last year.

While the overall trend was downward, Western Cape’s district survey highlighted important deviations. It showed an uptick in HIV prevalence in several districts, including Helderberg, which saw a rise from 12,8% in 2005 to 17,3% last year. Similarly, Oostenberg reported a rise over the past three years, from 14,8% in 2004 to 18,8% last year.

“High-prevalence areas require additional energy and resources,” said Uys. “We really want programmes that address local issues. For example, in Khayelitsha we now have programmes targeting older men,” he said.

“We have already targeted schools, and we want to get peer-educator (HIV) programmes into all of them,” he said.

The health department had also developed programmes aimed at sex workers and truck drivers , he said. The province had earmarked R15,1m for local programmes, he told Business Day. The province had budgeted R339m for HIV/AIDS programmes for the current financial year in addition to the services it provided at clinics and hospitals, he said.

“As far as treatment, care and support is concerned, the department will continue to strive towards improving access to care and support which encompasses the full spectrum of basic health services, palliative treatment, home-based care, treatment of opportunistic infections and building on the antiretroviral treatment programme.”