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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | West Africa | SIERRA LEONE: First post-war countrywide survey shows 1.5 percent HIV prevalence | Care Treatment, Prevention Research | News Items
Tuesday 21 February 2006
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SIERRA LEONE: First post-war countrywide survey shows 1.5 percent HIV prevalence

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


Effective prevention efforts are needed

FREETOWN, 20 December (PLUSNEWS) - The first countrywide HIV/AIDS survey carried out in Sierra Leone since the end of its 11-year war shows a relatively low prevalence rate of 1.5 percent, according to the head of the National AIDS Secretariat, Brima Kargbo.

Prevalence in Sierra Leone previously had been estimated at 0.9 percent on the basis of a 2002 survey touching on only a part of the country of five million people. Activists had reckoned prevalence to be as high as five per cent in the capital, Freetown.

The latest study, carried out by Ghanaian laboratory Nimba Research Consultancy and financed by the World Bank, involved a sample 3.5 times larger than the previous one, with 8,346 people volunteering to take blood tests - 58 per cent of them women.

It showed a 2.1 prevalence rate in urban areas and 1.3 percent in the countryside. Unlike other West African nations, where women are twice as vulnerable as men, there was little difference in the infection rate between men and women, at 1.5 and 1.6 percent respectively.

But in this impoverished country still ravaged by the 1991-2002 war that left 20,000 people dead and displaced half of the population, authorities fear that without an adequate prevention campaign, the epidemic could explode.

"We must move to intensify prevention efforts given a large number of new infections, a lack of knowledge and low use of condoms," Kargbo told PlusNews.

The study showed that only 10 percent of people use condoms.

The National AIDS Secretariat also hopes to expand the network of counselling and testing centres, currently at five in the capital and one in each of the country’s 12 districts.

The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in May pledged US $8.5 million over the next two years to shore up prevention programmes and help provide antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). The World Bank for its part has been involved since 2002 in a US $15 million scheme to battle HIV/AIDS.

Less than 300 of the 7,000 people who require ARVs are receiving the drugs in four centres in Sierra Leone, but Kargbo said 4,000 people are expected to be on the treatment next year thanks to help from the government and its international partners.


Recent SIERRA LEONE Reports
New survey expected to show much higher HIV prevalence rate,  17/Feb/05
300 people to receive free antiretroviral drugs,  20/Jan/05
Efforts to break down HIV/AIDS stigma starting to pay off,  9/Dec/04
UN peacekeepers equipped to prevent HIV/AIDS,  13/Mar/03
World Bank loan for reconstruction and HIV/AIDS,  28/Mar/02
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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