President Jacob Zuma told an African Union conference in Boksburg on maternal health and healthcare on the continent that many reports indicate that fewer South African children are being born HIV-positive.
"In South Africa, we have been able to reduce both maternal and child mortality in the past three years," he said. "Mother-to-child transmission [of HIV] for instance, used to be 8.5% in 2008. It went down to 3.5% in 2010, and even more down to 2.7% in 2011.
"Since there are a million pregnancies per annum in South Africa, with an approximately 30% HIV prevalence rate in pregnant women, it means that in 2008, a total of 25 000 children were born HIV positive in South Africa, but in 2011 there were 8 100. This is a more than a 60% reduction," said Zuma.
While the figures for 2012 were still being verified, they were likely to be lower than those of 2011.
More to be done
Zuma said reducing deaths of women and children during childbirth was one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for the continent to achieve by 2015.
Many had doubts that sub-Saharan African countries would be able to achieve the goal of significantly decreasing the mortality rate.
"It is generally believed that Africa in general, but sub-Saharan Africa in particular, is going to find it very difficult to achieve the health-related MDGs. Our view is that a lot can still be achieved in 900 days," he said.
One of several factors that could assist in achieving this goal was better food and nutrition for women and children.
Thus, the government was investing in farming projects around the country.
Zuma praised the fact that the event coincided with Women's Month in South Africa – a time when women's rights are highlighted. National Women's Day is on August 9.
The three-day AU conference runs until Saturday. It is also being attended by AU commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and delegates from across the world, including Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.