A recent study conducted by researchers in the US and South Africa has found that HIV infection is three times more common in South African women ages 15 through 24 than in men of the same age group. Researchers anonymously tested nearly 12,000 South Africans for the disease in 2003, as well as conducted household surveys. They found that 15.5 percent of the women tested positive, but only 4.8 percent of the men.
Findings also showed that HIV infection rates were higher for both men and women who reported a larger number of sexual partners and inconsistent condom use, and for young women who were with older sexual partners.
The only upbeat note in the study, which was published in the September 23 issue of the international journal AIDS, is that young women and men who participated in South Africa’s loveLife youth program for AIDS prevention were significantly less likely to contract HIV than those who hadn’t participated. LoveLife encourages frank discussion of sex between parents and children and promotes sexual responsibility.
“South African youth have the highest rate of HIV infection in the world,” said Dr. Audrey E. Pettifor of the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health, the lead author of the AIDS article. “But the results of our survey are a hopeful sign that the country’s efforts to find ways to curb the spread of the HIV epidemic, specifically through loveLife, may be making a difference in the lives of these young people.”