Swaziland's already stark AIDS crisis appears to have worsened, as new government data Monday showed an increase in HIV infections among pregnant women.
The prevalence of HIV among pregnant women was at 42.6 percent in 2004. The rate dropped to 39.2 percent in 2006, only to rise again last year to 42.2 percent, the report said.
"The figures were alarmingly high, such that we do not know what is the real cause because we have employed every strategy to combat the spread of the epidemic," Health Minister Benedict Xaba told state radio.
The ante-natal study conducted every two years has been on the rise since the first survey in 1992, when the rate was 3.9 percent.
Xaba said that infection rates appeared to be stabilising among teenage mothers.
"However, the age group 25-39 still shows a steady increase over the years and this is a cause for concern as this is the productive age group," he added.
AIDS activists have criticised government's inadequate distribution of medications in a country where close to 40 percent of the adult population is infected with the disease.
King Mswati III exerts absolute rule over the tiny mountainous kingdom, with a lavish lifestyle in a country mired in poverty.
In August 2008, a group of mostly HIV-positive women staged an unprecedented protest against a foreign shopping spree by eight of King Mswati's 13 wives, ahead of his extravagant 40th birthday celebration.