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Regional themes > HIV/AIDS Last update: 2020-07-02  

Department of Health, South Africa

National HIV and Syphilis antenatal sero-prevalence survey in South Africa

Summary report

Directorate: Health Systems Research, Research Coordination and Epidemiology

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National sentinel surveys of public sector antenatal clinic attendees have been conducted in South Africa by the Department of Health since 1990. Antenatal sentinel surveys are internationally recognised as tools for estimating the magnitude, growth and spread of the epidemic over time. These surveys conducted each year, have provided the best available data in terms of HIV and syphilis prevalence and are regarded as the cornerstone in tracking the progression of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. These surveys are carried out every year during the month of October. Pregnant women presenting for antenatal care for the first time during the current pregnancy at selected sites are requested to participate in this anonymous and unlinked survey. The survey findings are instrumental in informing policy and programme interventions aimed at preventing new infections and mitigating the effects of the epidemic. Some of these interventions include improvements in the syndromic approach to the management of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), improved management of opportunistic infections among people infected with HIV, expansion of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, and other initiatives.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, an estimated 60 million people worldwide have become infected with the HI virus, with an estimated 40 million people living with HIV at the end of 2001. UNAIDS further estimated that 3.4 million new HIV infections occurred in sub-Saharan Africa in the past year (2001), which means that 28.1 million Africans now live with the virus. Recent antenatal clinic data show that several parts of Southern Africa have now joined Botswana with prevalence rates among pregnant women exceeding 30%. However, HIV prevalence among adults continues to fall in Uganda, while there is evidence that prevalence among young people (especially women) is dropping in some parts of the continent. South Africa while regarded as having one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world with an estimated 4.7 million South Africans living with HIV/AIDS; prevalence among young women (below 20 years) is also dropping.

In the process of extending Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) services and surveillance for HIV in the general population, the Department of Health uses a model based on the results of the survey to estimate the impact of HIV in the general population. The 13th in this series of antenatal surveys was conducted during October 2002. The results are here below presented.

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