HIV spreads fastest among women

New research on the rate at which HIV is spreading in South Africa has found that young women have a higher risk of contracting the virus than young men.

New research on the rate at which HIV is spreading in South Africa has found that young women have a higher risk of contracting the virus than young men.

The study was done by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and is reported in this month's edition of the South African Medical Journal.

It was based on data from the South African National HIV Prevalence, HIV Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey in 2005.

The director of the HSRC's research programme into the social aspects of HIV and Aids, Thomas Rehle, said the incidence of HIV among women between 20 and 29 was 5,6percent.

This is six times more than in men in the same age group, only 0,9percent of whom are infected.

In people in the 15 to 24 age group, women accounted for 90percent of all recent infections.

About 571000 people became infected with HIV in 2005 - about 1500 infections a day.

Rehle said 15851 blood samples were analysed to estimate the incidence of HIV in South Africa.

"We found that the incidence of HIV in people two years or older was 1,4percent," said Rehle.

"These findings suggest that the prevention campaigns are not having the desired effect, particularly among young women."

The research also shows that a substantial number of children have become infected other than through the transfer of the virus from mother to child.

Olive Shisana, the chief executive of the HSRC, said the sources of such infections of children were not known.

The research revealed that there was a relationship between living conditions and the levels of the disease's occurrence.

"People living in urban informal settlements have by far the highest incidence, 5,1percent," Shisana said.

They are followed by those living in rural informal housing (1,6percent) and urban formal housing (0,8percent).

"These results suggest that poverty plays a significant role in increasing vulnerability to HIV," said Shisana.

A surprising finding was the high incidence of HIV, 5,8percent, among widowers and, even more so, widows. - BuaNews

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