HIV Rates Up – Report

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By Staff Reporter WINDHOEK Despite a multi-faceted awareness campaign involving the media focusing on AIDS, the campaign appears to have fallen on deaf ears as HIV prevalence ratio among pregnant women in Namibia has increased slightly, a new report has revealed. The 2006 National Sentinel Survey among pregnant women reveals that the overal HIV prevalence from the 2006 survey was 19.9 percent representing an increase of 0.02 percent compared to 2004, which recorded a prevalence rate of 19.7 percent. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, yesterday told a media briefing that although there is a decrease in the prevalence rate, it is not statistically significant and thus the situation still calls for intensified efforts. The survey included 29 sites and 79 health facilities. A total of 7ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 303 pregnant women were included in the 2006 survey and 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 455-tested positive for HIV antibodies, yielding a prevalence of 19.9 percent. Prevalence varied from a low of 7.9 percent in Opuwo to a high of 39.4 percent in Katima Mulilo. It is evident from that prevalence in Katima Mulilo is significantly higher than any of the sites around the country. Thirteen sites recorded a prevalence ratio of between 20 percent and 27 percent while 12 sites recorded between 10 percent and 19.3 percent. Further, three sites recorded a prevalence ratio of less than 10 percent and include areas such as Opuwo, Gobabis, and Windhoek Central Hospital. Age group 15-19 years recorded a slight increase in the prevalence rate from 10 percent to 10.2 percent in just two years. A moderate increase was also observed in age groups 25-29 and 30 to 34 while 45 to 49 recorded a moderate decrease, Shangula said. “The findings call for increased efforts to intensify HIV/AIDS control measures,” he emphasised. The only reduction in HIV prevalence rate in Namibia was recorded between 2002 and 2004, representing the first ever drop in prevalence since the country began bi-annual sentinel surveillance. From a 1992 estimate of 4.2 percent, prevalence rose rapidly over the following four years to 15.4 percent in 1996. Prevalence continued to rise less rapidly for the following six years to a peak of 22.0 percent in 2002. The national sentinel survey is conducted every two years throughout the country. Approximately, 85 percent of pregnant women attend antenatal care and during their visits to the clinics, blood is screened for blood transmissible infections such as syphilis , Hepatitis B and HIV infection. The Permanent Secretary clarified that clinics use a standardized method as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that makes it impossible to trace the results to the woman from whom the sample was drawn. The survey is carried to estimate the current burden of HIV in the country by site, age, parity, gravity and by rural/urban residence, Shangula stated. It also enables the ministry to monitor trends, over time in HIV prevalence among pregnant women nationally as well as validate programme data from prevention to mother-to-child-transmission, with sentinel surveillance at sites. Results from the survey provide valuable information with both programme and policy implications which are equally important to those participating in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Namibia.