18. HIV prevalence among 15–24 year old pregnant women



HIV prevalence among 15–24 year old pregnant women is the percentage of pregnant women ages 15–24 whose blood samples test positive for HIV.


Goal/target addressed

Goal 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Target 7. Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.



HIV infection leads to AIDS. Without treatment, average survival from the time of infection is about nine years. Access to treatment is uneven, and no vaccine is currently available.


About half of all new HIV cases are among people 24 years old or younger. In generalized epidemics (with prevalence consistently at less than 1 percent among pregnant women), the infection rate for pregnant women is similar to the overall rate for the adult population. Therefore, this indicator is a measure of spread of the epidemic. In low-level and concentrated epidemics, HIV prevalence is monitored in groups with high risk behaviour (because prevalence among pregnant women is low).


Method of computation

The number of pregnant women whose blood samples test positive for HIV expressed as a percentage of all pregnant women in that age group whose blood is tested.


Data collection and source

Data on HIV in pregnant women come from tests on leftover blood samples taken for other reasons during pregnancy. These samples come from selected antenatal clinics during routine sentinel surveillance, chosen to reflect urban, rural and other sociogeographic divisions in a country. HIV prevalence data in groups with high risk behaviour are collected in serosurveys that are part of the surveillance system or in ad hoc prevalence surveys.


Only the results of unlinked, anonymous screening of blood taken for other purposes should be used in calculating this indicator of HIV prevalence. Refusal and other forms of participation bias are considerably reduced in unlinked, anonymous HIV testing compared with other forms of testing, such as in programmes that offer counseling and voluntary HIV testing for pregnant women to reduce mother to child transmission.


These data are gathered by the World Health Organization and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS.



Monitoring the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS: Guidelines on Construction of Core Indicators, 2002, Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (www.unaids.org/UNGASS/docs/JC718-CoreIndic_en.pdf).

National AIDS Programmes: A Guide to Monitoring and Evaluation, Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (www.cpc.unc.edu/measure/guide/guide.html).

Second Generation Surveillance for HIV, 2002, World Health Organization (www.who.int/hiv/pub/surveillance/en).

Report on the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic, 2002, Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (www.unaids.org/hivaidsinfo).

The State of the World’s Children, annual, United Nations Children’s Fund (www.unicef.org/publications).

Young People and HIV/AIDS: Opportunity in Crisis, 2002, United Nations Children’s Fund, Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS and World Health Organization


World Health Organization, www.who.int/hiv/pub/epidemiology/en.

Turning the Tide: CEDAW and the Gender Dimensions of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic, 2001, United Nations Development Fund for Women (www.unifem.undp.org/resources/turningtide).

Gender, HIV and Human Rights: A Training Manual, 2000, United Nations Development Fund for Women (www.unifem.undp.org/resources/hivtraining).

Fact Sheet: Gender and HIV/AIDS, Pan American Health Organization (www.paho.org/english/hdp/hdw/GenderandHIVFactSheetI.pdf).


Periodicity of measurement

The data are collated annually in many developing countries.


Gender issues

Pregnant women are not chosen for clinical surveillance because of gender issues but because they offer a unique opportunity to monitor HIV/AIDS.


Throughout the world, the unequal social status of women places them at higher risk for contracting HIV. Women are at a disadvantage when it comes to access to information about HIV prevention, the ability to negotiate safe sexual encounters and access to treatment for HIV/AIDS once infected. As a result of these inequities and epidemic dynamics, the proportion of women among people living with HIV/AIDS is rising in many regions.


Disaggregation issues

Data from surveillance of pregnant women at antenatal care clinics are broken into urban populations and populations living outside major urban areas. In many countries, data from rural areas are rare. The indicator for pregnant women ages 15–24 should be reported as the median for the capital city, for other urban areas and for rural areas.


International data comparisons

The State of the World’s Children, annual, United Nations Children’s Fund (www.unicef.org/publications).

United Nations Children’s Fund, www.childinfo.org.

World Health Statistics, annual, World Health Organization (www3.who.int/whosis). [Can’t find this publication. Do you mean World Health Report? www.global-health.gov/worldhealthstatistics.shtml]

World Development Indicators, annual, World Bank (www.worldbank.org/data).

Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, www.unaids.org/hivaidsinfo.

Human Development Report, annual, United Nations Development Programme (www.undp.org).


Comments and limitations

The indicator gives a fairly good idea of relatively recent trends in HIV infection nationwide in countries where the epidemic is generalized. In areas where most HIV infections are confined to subpopulations with high-risk behaviours, trends should be assessed in these populations.


In most countries, serosurveillance sites have not been selected as representative samples of the country. Logistical, feasibility and cost issues guide the selection of these sites. Also, in many countries, the sites included in the surveillance system have changed over time, making interpretation of trends more difficult.



Ministries of health.

Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS.

World Health Organization.

United Nations Children’s Fund.

United Nations Population Fund.