The studies were released independently by two of the country's major
research bodies. Both suggest a deepening crisis, with about one in nine South
Africans infected with HIV.
Earlier this year, the country's main statistics agency, Statistics South Africa
(Stats SA) and the health department published two widely different estimates.
Stats SA said 4.5 million South Africans were infected with HIV, while the
health department put the number at more than 6.3 million.
The two new studies struck an unprecedented middle ground in their estimate of
about five million infections.
Epidemic far from slowing
The first, by the Actuarial Society of South Africa, suggests that the epidemic
is far from slowing. The figures incorporate surveys of HIV prevalence among
pregnant women attending government clinics, a household survey conducted by the
Human Sciences Research Council in 2002, a local youth survey, data from the
most recent population census, and death registration records.
The second study, commissioned by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and published by
the Human Sciences Research Council, surveyed households across the country and
included HIV tests on 15 800 people.
Although the response rate was only 55%, the researchers took this into account
when working out the results for the general population, said Olive Shisana, the
HSRC executive director. The HSRC survey suggests that misinformation and lack
of knowledge about the disease remain widespread, and raise concerns about how
effective the multitude of HIV prevention campaigns currently underway in the
A significant percentage of elderly and young respondents - those aged over 50
and those in the 12 to 14 age bracket - were either unsure if HIV caused Aids or
firmly believed it did not. This suggested these age groups had been neglected
by prevention campaigns, said Shisana. - SciDev.Net
Actuarial Society of South Africa homepage
Stats SA homepage