Johannesburg: In South Africa over six million people were infected with HIV by 2004. This puts the prevalence of AIDS in the country at a high of 14 percent. South Africa 's total population is 46.9 million.
The latest figure announced by South African Health Department is far higher than the estimate of 4.5 million given by the official state statistics agency, Statistics SA, reports Xinhua.
The health department said that between 6.29 million and 6.57 million people in the country had been infected with HIV by last year.
The figures, attributed to the department's HIV and Syphilis Antenatal Sero-prevalence Survey, are likely to stir political controversy and cast unflattering light on the accuracy of official statistics, local daily Business Day said.
"Last year's figure prompted the department to speculate that the pandemic might be slowing, but the latest data suggest this is not happening," the statement from the department said.
Rob Dorrington, a leading expert on AIDS statistics, said: "Is it any wonder the public is confused when the same government offers estimates that differ by between two million and 2.5-million?"
He said the department's latest figures were "undoubtedly too high".
HIV/AIDS is South Africa 's most pressing health challenge. The annual survey of pregnant women attending government ante-natal clinics is an important indicator of the progression of the pandemic.
The report shows 29.4 percent of pregnant women attending government clinics last year were infected with HIV, up from 27.9 percent in 2003 and 26.5 percent in 2002.
Last year's figures prompted the department to speculate that the pandemic might be slowing, but the latest data suggest this is not happening.
In fact, the prevalence rates of HIV measured among pregnant women rose in all age groups from 2003 to 2004.
According to the report women in their early 20s and 30s are the most vulnerable, with 38.5 percent of pregnant women aged 25-29 infected with the HI virus.
The survey found wide provincial variations, with HIV prevalence among pregnant women increasing in all the provinces except Free State , North West and Mpumalanga . KwaZulu-Natal had the highest figures (40 percent) and Western Cape the lowest (15.4 percent).
The report was published on the department's official website Friday just days after the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party tried to obtain the report using the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
DA health spokeswoman Dianne Kohler-Barnard said the release of the report following the use of the act was "a triumph".
"If this pandemic is to be dealt with effectively, it must be brought out
into the open."
However, department spokesman Sibane Mngadi denied the report had been released as a result of the DA's use of the act.
"We wanted printed copies to be available before we published it electronically," he said, adding the department would release a detailed statement later.
An encouraging aspect of the survey was the continued decline in syphilis prevalence, which has fallen from 11 percent in 1998 to 1.6 percent last year.
(New Extract: IANS)
Further Information on AIDS from Medindia
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
"AIDS is an epidemic disease, a potentially preventable, deadly infection for which there is no cure, no vaccine, and it is not under control."
- National Commission
on AIDS, 1993
More than 40 million people worldwide, are infected with HIV/AIDS and more than 3.1 million AIDS-related deaths occurred worldwide each year. Women are more affected by the virus than men. The Incidence of AIDS is higher in South Africa and the World AIDS Day campaign (December 1st) is aimed to raise awareness about AIDS. AIDS is the clinical manifestations or disease symptoms occurring due to HIV infection. Immune compromised stage of the infected person manifests this end stage.
For more information read:
How does HIV virus spread?
The HIV virus can spread through:
Sex with HIV infected person.
HIV positive mother to her child
Some people infected with
HIV may not develop
AIDS for ten years or longer, but during this period, the infected person might not feel sick but can still pass the virus to other people.
For more information read: