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 Friday 09 October 2009
 
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ZAMBIA: See-sawing HIV figures cause alarm


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
HIV prevalence among the general population has dropped from 16 to 14 percent
LUSAKA, 17 February 2009 (PlusNews) - The recent two-percent drop in HIV prevalence in Zambia may not be a true reflection of the state of the pandemic in the country, health officials have warned.

UNAIDS Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor Dr Michael Gboun told IRIN/PlusNews that while there has been a marked decline of HIV in the general population, some geographical areas and groups were showing an alarming increase.

"Sex workers in both urban and rural Zambia are showing a prevalence rate of as high as 65 percent, with some geographical areas like Matero Township in Lusaka at 35 percent. This development may have an impact on the future of the epidemic."

The 2008 Zambia Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) revealed that HIV prevalence among the general population had dropped from 16 to 14 percent. It also revealed significant drops in prevalence in some parts of Zambia, like Kalabo in Western Province. However, three out of nine provinces showed a high HIV prevalence, though the cause of these new infections has yet to be established.

The next stage, according to National AIDS Council (NAC) Research Specialist Harold Witola, is to find out what is driving the epidemic in areas where prevalence has risen.

''Sex workers in both urban and rural Zambia are showing a prevalence rate of as high as 65 percent''
"NAC is in the process of commissioning research to help us know why HIV prevalence is increasing in the three provinces, which are Southern, Luapula and Western. We also want to find out how female sex workers are influencing the spread of the epidemic in these areas."

Witola said the research would also focus on how multiple concurrent partners were contributing to new infections as well as prevalence trends in new mining towns like Solwezi in North Western Province.

NAC Director of Prevention Dr Alex Simwanza said the recent findings would be used to implement new interventions to cover identified gaps. "The question we are now asking is, 'What is causing the rise in these areas?'"

Although HIV/AIDS activist Dr Mannessah Phiri welcomed the attempt by the National AIDS Council to unravel the new statistics, he called for urgent action to respond to the alarming HIV figures.

"It's important for us to start developing localized interventions for these hot spots and geographical areas," he said. "We need to do this speedily. We have failed to come up with interventions that address the needs of the housewife, for instance, who has now become more vulnerable."

pc/kn/he


Theme(s): (PLUSNEWS) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews)

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