HIV/AIDS prevalence in the small central African nation of Burundi rose to 4.2 percent last year from 3.5 percent in 2002, health officials said Thursday.
The increase is due to "the situation in our country which is emerging from war, poverty and strong beliefs (among people) in the countryside..," said Speciose Baransata, the deputy minister in charge of combating the disease.
Of its seven million people, around 250,000 are living with the virus and only some 11,000 have access to treatment.
"We call on the government to truly re-commit itself to the fight against the scourge," said Jeanne Gapiya, the head of National Association of People infected with HIV.
"Otherwise we are headed for a catastrophe," she told AFP.
Benjamin Nicayenzi, an official with a non-governmental organisation involved in the fight against AIDS, lamented the withdrawal of key donors and few tests currently being conducted.
"There are practically no condoms in (health) centres in the countryside," he said.
War-wracked Burundi is struggling to rise from the ravages of a civil war which erupted in 1993 and killed an estimated 300,000 people.