The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe has fallen by over 10 percent in the past six years, but the health minister cautioned that the rate was still too high, state media reported Thursday.
The state-run Herald newspaper said that the prevalence rate now stood at 15.6 percent in the southern African nation, down from a figure of 18.1 percent in 2003 and 26.5 percent in 2001.
Health Minister David Parirenyatwa applauded the downward trend, but warned that the 15.6 percent prevalence rate was still very high.
"While we welcome it, we should caution ourselves that this is still an alarming figure that we must address," Parirenyatwa was quoted as saying by the Herald.
According to the government figures, one in seven Zimbabweans is now HIV positive, a sharp drop from the 1990s when the ratio was one in four.
An estimated 1.3 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, 651,402 of them women and 132,938 children under 14 years old, whilst 260,000 are in urgent need of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).
Some 86,0000 people were currently on ARVs, the newspaper said.
Owen Mugurungi, head of the health ministry's AIDS and tuberculosis unit said the decline was due to efforts by government to combat the pandemic.
"We take cognisance of our efforts attained in the anti-retroviral rollout programme for the decline in the prevalence rate," he said.
"If we take out the impact of ARVs, the prevalence rate could have been 15.3 percent."
The new statistics have been validated by various non-governmental organisations such as Atlanta's Centre for Disease Control, the Imperial College in London and United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organisation, Parirenyatwa said.