Huge herpes infections in women with HIV
For the first time, South Africa’s annual antenatal HIV survey also tested pregnant women in four provinces for herpes.
Almost 19,000 were women tested in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western and Northern capes, and the average herpes infection rate was a massive 55.8 percent.
But there was “exceedingly high herpes prevalence” of almost 90 percent amongst women living with HIV. In comparison, herpes infection was less than half of that in HIV-negative women (42.5%).
The Herpes Simplex Type 2 (HSV-2) virus causes blisters on the genitals, which researchers believe maks it easier for HIV to enter a person’s body.
The herpes infection rate explodes exponentially according to age. Less than a third of 15- to 19-year-old women were infected (28.4%) but this leapt to almost two-thirds by the age of 25- to 29 (64.6%).
Nine out of 10 women aged 45 to 49 were infected with herpes, although the sample size was only 24 women.
The “2012 National Antenatal Sentinel HIV and HSV-2 Prevalence Survey” was released onto the Department of Health’s website last week.
Writing in the survey’s foreword, Health Director General Precious Matsoso said for the first time that her department “has assessed other risk exposure factors for HIV infection” by testing women for herpes, a “significant co-factor for HIV transmission”.
Health Department spokesperson Joe Maila said the survey had been put onto the website by “some officials”, but that all questions would be answered at a formal launch some time in the future.
HIV prevalence among pregnant women holds steady
HIV infection among pregnant women has stabilised at 29.5 percent, the same as in 2011. HIV prevalence is highest amongst women aged 30 to 34 years (42.8%).
Umgungundlovu (Pietermaritzburg) district in KwaZulu-Natal and Gert Sibande district in Mpumalanga have the worst HIV rates at slightly more than 40 percent.
Eight of the 10 worst affected districts are in KwaZulu-Natal. However, Gauteng’s West Rand also features in the top 10 for the first time.
There were glimmers of good news, however. HIV has fallen slightly amongst younger pregnant women aged 15 to 29.
In addition, KwaZulu’s uMkhanyakude district has recorded a dramatic HIV prevalence decrease of six percent in a single year (from 41% in 2011 to 35% in 2012). – Health-e News Service.