05 OCTOBER 2009: PRETORIA

Programme Director

Deputy Minister of Health Dr Molefi Sefularo

Acting Director-General Dr Kamy Chetty

Members of the Peer Review Team

Members of the media

Let me welcome you all to this important event. I am sure that you have been waiting for the release of the 2008 national antenatal sentinel HIV and syphilis prevalence survey because we are all very concerned about the HIV epidemic and its impact on our country.

As we all know, HIV and AIDS continues to be one of the biggest challenge facing us. Over the years, as government, civil society, business and other sectors we have launched individual and joint programmes geared at responding to this challenge. It is not my intention this afternoon to comment on the success or otherwise of such interventions. What I am prepared to say with emphasis is our commitment as this government to continue to work together with all sectors of our society to continue the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Equally important for us is the need to work with academics and researchers as we continue to find new ways to respond to this challenge. It is for this reason that I am encouraged by the presence this afternoon of some of the researchers and academics who were part of our Peer Review team and I wish to thank them for being true patriots and making themselves part of this national effort. I sure that we not going to experience some of the problems we saw last year for instance where the integrity of the survey results were questioned.  

As we launch the 2008 antenatal HIV and syphilis survey Report, I do not want to fall in the trap of making good-sounding statements about whether the signs are good or bad.

The result from the 2008 Report on antenatal HIV and syphilis prevalence survey is a useful tool to observe trends, reinforce or increase the commitment to accelerate implementation, provide feedback to health workers as well as local and international groups involved in AIDS prevention and care programs. For us, the antenatal sentinel surveillance programme remains an important indicator of prevalence in pregnant women who attend public health facilities.

What are some of the more important conclusions that can be drawn from the 2008 findings?

Firstly, South Africa has an established generalised HIV epidemic with an estimated prevalence of 10.6% (HSRC 2008) in the general population and an estimated prevalence of 29.3% in the antenatal population surveyed in 2008.

Secondly, the prevalence among women aged 25 years and above has stabilised at high and unacceptable levels. The age group 15-24 years is important as it is used to estimate new HIV infections

I wish to share with everyone some of the key recommendations made from the findings:

  • The need to report on HIV prevalence distribution by geographic area (rural vs.semi-rural vs urban) because this will assist us to better target our interventions
  • HIV prevalence is a tool that gives us a sense of magnitude of the problem and anticipated disease burden. However, we have to find ways of estimating HIV incidence as a measure of new infections and success of intervention programmes
  • South Africa is rich in data on the HIV epidemic. I wish to encourage triangulation of the available data to increase the explanatory power of the dynamics of the epidemic

As I conclude, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the team for making this survey a success. As a nation we are grateful for the good work that you have done. To researchers and academics I wish to express my Department’€™s commitment in working with all of you as we find ways to deal with the many health challenges facing us. The challenges are many!

As we move forward, we will take very seriously some of the key points that are raised in this survey and I remain optimistic that the next survey will be even more encouraging.

Thank you very much.

DR. A MOTSOALEDI, MP

MINISTER OF HEALTH

Report attached at above link.

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