HIV prevalence in Liberia remains low; fertility, child deaths decline
Calverton, MD - According to the nationally representative 2007 Liberia Demographic and Health Survey (LDHS), 2 percent of Liberian adults age 15-49 are HIV-positive. This low prevalence rate is promising, especially when compared to neighboring countries such as Côte d'Ivoire where HIV prevalence has reached 5 percent. Further work, however, is needed to increase knowledge and change behavior in order to maintain or reduce the current rate. The LDHS, for example, found that only 44 percent of women and 66 percent of men know that HIV can be prevented by using condoms and limiting sexual relations to one partner. Additionally, only one-fourth of men who had higher risk sex (sex with a partner who is neither a spouse nor who lives with him) used a condom.
"The LDHS provides valuable information that can be used for advocacy, policymaking, program development, and socio-economic development," says Dr. T. Edward Liberty, Director General of LISGIS. "LISGIS is proud to have implemented such an important survey in Liberia's history."
The LDHS was recently released by the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) and the Government of Liberia. HIV prevalence estimates were determined by interviewing residents and obtaining blood samples from a representative national sample of Liberian adults between January and April 2007. The LDHS is the first national survey to use population-based testing to determine HIV prevalence. This method provides direct information on HIV infection among adult women and men. Previous HIV estimates in Liberia have been principally based on the results of sentinel surveillance of the rate of HIV infection among pregnant women attending ten antenatal care clinics in urban areas. These estimates tend to be higher and cannot be directly compared to the LDHS results.
LDHS results also point to several encouraging trends in other maternal and child health indicators, including:
- The total fertility rate (TFR) is 5.2 children per woman, down from 6.2 children in 1999-2000 and 6.6 children in 1986.
- Child mortality has also declined, with the under-five mortality dropping from 220 deaths per 1,000 births in 1986 to 110 deaths per 1,000 births in 2007.
- During pregnancy, a majority of women (79 percent) receive antenatal care from a health professional and 78 percent of births are protected against tetanus.
Nevertheless, some indicators show room for improvement. For example:
- Only 39 percent of children are considered fully immunized against major preventable childhood diseases, such as polio and measles.
- Almost 40 percent of children under five are considered stunted or too short for their age and 20 percent of children are severely stunted. Additionally, 8 percent are wasted or too thin for their height.
- Despite widespread interest in stopping or delaying childbirth, only 11 percent of married women are using a method of family planning, mainly injectables and pills.
The LDHS was conducted among 6,824 households, more than 7,000 women age 15-49 and more than 6,000 men age 15-59. The LISGIS conducted the survey. Macro International Inc. provided technical assistance as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development -funded Demographic and Health Surveys project (MEASURE DHS). Funding for the survey was provided by the Government of Liberia, USAID, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), UNICEF, and the U.N. Development Program (UNDP).
For more information on the LDHS, please contact Mr. Edward Liberty at LISGIS, Statistics House, Tubman Boulevard, Sinkor, Monrovia; Telephone: 06-519-628.