Health Department survey shows drop in prevalence of HIV among pregnant women

There has been a "significant" drop in the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women attending public health clinics, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said last week.

There has been a "significant" drop in the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women attending public health clinics, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said last week.

Opening debate on her department's budget vote in the national assembly, she said this was because of the government's focus on prevention.

"I am happy to announce that the 2006 ante-natal survey results show a statistically significant decrease in the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women who use public health facilities," said Tshabalala-Msimang.

But the minister did not provide figures pertaining to this decrease.

She said that more than 439million male and three million female condoms had been distributed during the past financial year.

Speaking during the debate, IFP MP Mabalana Sibuyana called for routine and obligatory Aids testing.

"The voluntary counselling and testing for HIV is the song of the politically correct.

"It must be replaced by mass pre-test counselling and routine testing," he said.

"The IFP is considering a private members' bill to make premarital testing for HIV obligatory."

The DA said it would like to see the Health Department introduce "opt-out" testing for HIV.

"Central to this strategy would be making an HIV test a routine offer to everyone who seeks treatment in a public health facility.

"But it would be the right of the individual to turn down the offer," DA MP Gareth Morgan said.

Talking about the management of other diseases, Tshabalala-Msimang said while tuberculosis "remains a major challenge", efforts to control malaria had largely been successful.

"A total of 4404 malaria cases were reported between June last year and April this year, compared to 11246 cases reported for the period June 2005 to April 2006," she said.

Tshabalala-Msimang said over the same period, the number of deaths from malaria had dropped from 88 to 31.

She also announced plans to recruit doctors from North Africa.

"Cooperation with Tunisia is going to enable us to recruit a pool of 2000 doctors available from that country. - Sapa

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