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Jun 28, 2007
New national survey finds 19 percent of the Swazi population age 2 and older has HIV; other health indicators show improvements

Calverton, MD - Among the general population ages 2 to 60 plus, HIV prevalence is 19 percent, according to the preliminary findings of the new 2006-07 Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey (SDHS). More than one in four adults age 15-49 in Swaziland (26 percent) is infected with HIV. The Central Statistical Office released the preliminary SDHS results on Wednesday in Mbabane. The survey interviewed residents and obtained blood samples for anaemia and HIV testing in a representative national sample of Swazi households between July 2006 and February 2007.

As in other African countries, HIV affects more women than men in Swaziland. Overall, 22 percent of women age 2 and older are infected with HIV. For men of the same age, HIV prevalence is 15 percent. For women, HIV prevalence peaks at 49 percent between the ages of 25 and 29. For men, it peaks between the ages of 35 and 39 at 45 percent.

The SDHS is the first national survey to use population-based testing to determine HIV prevalence. Population-based testing collects blood from a nationally representative sample of the population in their homes. This method provides direct information on HIV infection among men, women, and children.

Previous HIV estimates in Swaziland have been principally based on the results of sentinel surveillance of the rate of HIV infection among pregnant women attending selected antenatal care clinics. The most recent round of sentinel surveillance in 2006 found a rate of 39 percent among ANC clients.

Because the SDHS covered a more broad-based population than the ANC survey, the HIV rate from the SDHS cannot be directly compared with the ANC result. In particular, the fact that the SDHS rate is lower than the ANC result does not signal that the HIV level has decreased in Swaziland.
The SDHS found some encouraging signs that Swazis are seeking testing to know their HIV status. Twenty-two percent of women age 15-49 received the results of an HIV test taken in the 12 months before the survey. On the other hand, the rate among men is only 9 percent. The survey also found that two-thirds of men and more than half of women engaging in higher-risk intercourse (sex with a partner who is neither a spouse nor living with the respondent) used a condom at last intercourse.  

SDHS results also point to several encouraging trends in other maternal and child health indicators including:

  • The total fertility rate (TFR) is 3.8 children per woman, down from 4.2 children in 2002. The TFR has declined steadily since the 1986 Population and Housing Census when it was 6.4 children.
  • More than 50 percent of married women use contraception, with 48 percent using a modern method, such as the injectables or the pill.
  • During pregnancy, almost all women (97 percent) receive antenatal care from a health professional, and 88 percent receive iron tablets during pregnancy. Nearly three-quarters of births take place in a health facility.
  • Overall, 82 percent of children are considered fully immunized against major preventable childhood diseases, such as polio and measles.
  • Of children who experienced diarrhoea in the two weeks preceding the survey, 89 percent were treated with an oral rehydration solution.

For more information on the SDHS, please contact Rachel Masuku, Nelisiwe Dlamini, or Henry Ginindza at the Central Statistical Office, New Interministerial Building, Block 4 Level 2, Telephone: 4042151 and Fax: 4043300.

The SDHS was conducted by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Macro International Inc. provided technical assistance as part of the USAID-funded Demographic and Health Surveys project (MEASURE DHS). Funding for the survey was provided by the Government of Swaziland and from other organisations, namely, the National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care (HAPAC), the United States President’s Emergency Programme for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), UNFPA, UNICEF, UNAIDS, Italian Corporation, the World Health Organisation, and Population Services International (PSI).