AIDS epidemic continues to outstrip response
Thursday 15 July 2004
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AFRICA: AIDS epidemic continues to outstrip response

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Africa remains the epicentre of the epidemic - UNAIDS

JOHANNESBURG, 6 July (PLUSNEWS) - New global estimates of the AIDS epidemic are slightly lower than previously thought, but HIV continues to spread and outpace the response, said the UNAIDS '2004 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic' launched on Tuesday.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the epicentre of the epidemic. It has 10 percent of the world's population but is home to 70 percent of all infected people - an estimated 25 million. Adult HIV prevalence appears to have stabilised, but this is due to the fact that new infections - more than two million every year - have been offset by a rise in AIDS-related deaths.

There was, however, a real decline in HIV prevalence among pregnant women in Kampala, Nairobi and Addis Ababa, the report said. But "the declines are not on a scale to claim control of the epidemic," noted Mark Stirling, director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Prevalence rates for Burundi, Kenya, Mali, Niger, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe have been revised downwards by UNAIDS, based on improved data collection methods that supplement the information gathered from pregnant women at antenatal clinics with national household surveys and better modelling methodology. "These are far more rigorous and detailed estimates than before," said Stirling.

Southern Africa remains the world's worst affected region. Botswana and Swaziland have the world's highest prevalence rates among people aged 15 to 49 at 37.3 percent and 38.85 precent respectively, followed by Lesotho with 28.9 percent, Zimbabwe with 24.6 percent, South Africa with 21.5 percent, Namibia with 21.3 percent and Zambia with 16.5 percent.

The reasons for the region's high rates include poverty, social instability leading to family disruption, high levels of sexually transmitted infections, low status of women, sexual violence, high mobility due to migrant labour, and ineffective leadership during critical periods in the epidemic's spread, said the report.

UNAIDS also stressed the "feminisation" of the epidemic. Nearly 60 percent of HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa are women, or 13 HIV-positive women for every 10 HIV-positive men, with women becoming infected at an earlier age than men.

Speaking from Ethiopia over a video link at the launch of the report in Johannesburg, South Africa, Carol Bellamy, the head of the UN Children's Fund, noted there were three factors that put young women at higher risk of contracting HIV.

These were sex with older men, who are more likely to be infected; the lack of schooling, or of safe schools where girls are secure from abuse by teachers or students; and violence against women, which, she said, "is endemic in Southern Africa and growing globally".

Global spending on AIDS has increased 15-fold since 1996 to just under US $5 billion in 2003, but was still less than half of the US $12 billion that would be needed by developing countries in 2005. Sub-Saharan Africa requires 43 percent of that funding, Asia 28 percent and Latin America 17 percent, with the rest going to Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Near East.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 38 percent of the resources were needed for care and treatment, 35 percent for prevention, 22 percent for orphan support and 5 percent for other programme costs.

Although the continent had an estimated 12 million orphans, most countries did not have a national orphan policy, according to the reporet. Voluntary counselling and testing coverage was low at 7 percent, and prevention of mother-to child-transmission of HIV reached only 5 percent of pregnant women.

The main obstacles to mounting effective national AIDS responses were stigma and discrimination, lack of human and institutional capacity and dlack of donor coordination, said the report.

Virtually every African country has an AIDS plan and a national AIDS body and considerable resources were being made available. But the problem, said Stirling, was these initiatives "have not yet translated into change and impact, partly due to a time lag and partly to huge human resources constraints". He urged the media to "keep an eye on the money and check why plans are not translating into action".

"We have fought hard to raise the money, now we must work just as hard to spend it wisely," the report quoted UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot as saying.


Recent AFRICA Reports
MSF calls for greater focus on paediatric ARVs,  15/Jul/04
New strategies needed for HIV prevention in youth,  15/Jul/04
WHO issues guidelines on Nevirapine,  15/Jul/04
Global workforce could be devastated by AIDS,  14/Jul/04
Medicines Control Council phases out Nevirapine monotherapy,  14/Jul/04
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International HIV/AIDS Alliance

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


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