Despite marked progress in curbing the HIV epidemic, a high percentage of schoolgirls are still HIV positive in South Africa, latest figures revealed.
Schoolgirls tested HIV positive constitute at least 28 percent of female pupils in schools across the country, according to figures released by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi at a National Council of Provinces "taking Parliament to the people" event in Carolina, Mpumalanga on Wednesday.
Compared with schoolgirls, only 4 percent of boys at schools are HIV positive.
"It is clear that it is not young boys who are sleeping with these girls. It is old men. We must take a stand against sugar daddies because they are destroying our children," Motsoaledi said in remarks published by the Sowetan newspaper on Thursday.
Motsoaledi said 94,000 schoolgirls fell pregnant across the country in 2011.
"Some (pregnant pupils) are known to the department of education, but there is a number which the education department does not know about. (About) 77,000 girls had abortions at public facilities. We can no longer live like that. We want to put an end to it," Motsoaledi said.
He said some pregnant girls, aged between 10 and 14 years of age, tested positive for HIV.
Motsoaledi said that of the 52 districts in the country, Gert Sibande district in Mpumalanga topped the list with a high number of HIV-positive people.
"There is also a high number of TB infections ... there is a lot of death and a lot of illness here. It is for this reason that we chose the district to be one of the 11 in the country where the National Health Insurance program will be piloted."
He said that as from April 1 the Heath Department will start giving patients starting anti-retroviral treatment the single-dose combination pill.
The news came against a backdrop of highly-acclaimed progress in stemming the HIV epidemic.
Thanks to the South African government's efforts to fight the HIV epidemic, the HIV prevalence has seen a 1.3-percent decline in the age group between 15 to 24 years -- from 21.8 percent in 2010 to 20.5 percent in 2011, according to the 2011 National Antenatal Sentinel HIV Prevalence Survey.
Another decrease was among the 15-to-19 year-old from 14 percent in 2010 to 12.7 percent in 2011, showed the survey.
The HIV prevalence, however, remained the highest among women in age group 30 to 34 years, increasing from 41.5 percent in 2009 to 42.2 percent in 2011. Among the 35-to-39 year-olds, the prevalence rate has increased from 35.4 percent in 2009 to 39.4 percent in 2011.
The reason for the higher prevalence rates among older women was that these age groups got infected earlier in their lives, and were now moving into a higher age group, according to the survey.