Posted on April 1, 2005

12.7% Teachers HIV+ (SA), Mar. 31

Johannesburg — A study commissioned by the Education Labour Relations Council has found that 12.7% of teachers in South Africa are HIV positive.

However, blacks are most likely to be HIV positive compared to whites, coloureds and Indians.

This finding was based on a nationally representative sample of 17 088 teachers who gave an oral fluid or blood specimens for HIV testing — with a response rate of 83%.

The study, carried out by the Human Sciences Research Council, found that HIV prevalence was the highest in the 25 to 34 age group followed by the 35 to 44 age group.

Teachers 55 years and older had the lowest HIV prevalence.

More than 22% of the HIV positive teacher population would need immediate antiretroviral therapy.

Age and race differences

The finding also showed that the health status of teachers was apparently poorer than that of the general population — with 10.6% admitted in hospital in the past 12 months.

The study found that if age and race differences are not taken into account, the HIV prevalence among men and women teachers were the same.

If the analysis was restricted to men and women in the 25 to 34 age group, differences become more pronounced.

Women have a higher HIV prevalence than men, as women are generally more vulnerable to HIV infection because of their biological make-up and their low socio-economic status.

There were also major racial differences in HIV prevalence: blacks have a prevalence of 16.3% compared to whites, coloureds and Indians, who have a prevalence of less than 1%.

The differences in age distribution among the different racial groups may partially account for the higher HIV prevalence among black teachers, as there was a higher concentration of black teachers in the high HIV risk age group of 25 to 34 than in other race groups.

High socio-economic group

The report notes, blacks were also more likely to find themselves in a lower socio-economic position than other race groups.

Teachers with a low socio-economic status had a much higher HIV prevalence than those in the high socio-economic group, and teachers living and working in rural areas had a higher HIV prevalence than their colleagues in urban schools.

HSRC executive director Olive Shisana said: “Black teachers were most likely to be HIV positive compared with the other groups.

“They were also most likely to be part of low economic status and more likely to be placed in rural areas without their families.”

Teachers working in schools in urban formal settlements had a significantly lower HIV prevalence than those working in urban informal settlements and rural areas.