Johannesburg: In South Africa over six million people were infected with HIV by 2004.// This puts the prevalence of AIDS in the country at a high of 14 percent. South Africa 's total population is 46.9 million.
The latest figure announced by South African Health Department is far higher than the estimate of 4.5 million given by the official state statistics agency, Statistics SA, reports Xinhua.
The health department said that between 6.29 million and 6.57 million people in the country had been infected with HIV by last year.
The figures, attributed to the department's HIV and Syphilis Antenatal Sero-prevalence Survey, are likely to stir political controversy and cast unflattering light on the accuracy of official statistics, local daily Business Day said.
"Last year's figure prompted the department to speculate that the pandemic might be slowing, but the latest data suggest this is not happening," the statement from the department said.
Rob Dorrington, a leading expert on AIDS statistics, said: "Is it any wonder the public is confused when the same government offers estimates that differ by between two million and 2.5-million?"
He said the department's latest figures were "undoubtedly too high".
HIV/AIDS is South Africa 's most pressing health challenge. The annual survey of pregnant women attending government ante-natal clinics is an important indicator of the progression of the pandemic.
The report shows 29.4 percent of pregnant women attending government clinics last year were infected with HIV, up from 27.9 percent in 2003 and 26.5 percent in 2002.
Last year's figures prompted the department to speculate that the pandemic might be slowing, but the latest data suggest this is not happening.
In fact, the prevalence rates of HIV measured among pregnant women rose in all age groups from 2003 to 2004.
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