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Declining AIDS Prevalence in Africa is Due to Deaths Not of Treatment

by Venkatraman on September 19, 2007 at 4:21 PM
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Declining AIDS Prevalence in Africa is Due to Deaths Not of Treatment

Researchers have expressed fears that reducing HIV/AIDS incidences in Africa is an indication that more people are succumbing to the disease and may not be a result of effective campaigns to reduce the number of new infections.

The marked reduction in HIV/AIDS prevalence can only be a result of many deaths from the disease because there is no indication that many more people have been treated while new incidences of infections have continued to soar.

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According to Joachim Osur, senior reproductive health expert with IPAS, an international organisation specialising on women's health issues, the reductions of HIV/AIDS prevalence reported in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda is not good news.

In August, Kenya reported that HIV/AIDS prevalence rate dropped from 6.1 percent in 2006 to 5.1 percent in 2007 while new infections declined from 60,000 to 55,000 in that period. The figures show that at least 151 Kenyans get infected with the virus every day.
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The number of those who died of the disease doubled the number of new infections while 53,000 more were saved from death due to their access to treatment.

At a reproductive health conference convened by an alliance of east African journalists over the weekend, Osur said, "The reducing HIV/AIDS prevalence means many infected people are dying from the disease. It does not mean the situation is getting better."

Unity Media for Social Change (MESUC), an association of east African journalists, convened the conference with the support of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, to encourage regional policy debates around reproductive health issues.

Patrick Orege, former director of Kenya's National Aids Control Council (NACC), told reporters at the conference new infections continue to spiral among adolescents and women but policies have failed to address issues of increasing treatment.

HIV/AIDS prevalence is measured by the number of people suffering from the disease within a particular locality.

Uganda has reduced its prevalence rate by nearly 70 percent since the 1990s to the current 6.6 percent of the national population.

UN Aids Agency (UNAIDS) has attributed the fall in HIV/AIDS prevalence to "specific interventions" but warns that the failure to distribute life prolonging antiretroviral drugs remains a challenge in Africa.

UNAIDS says in southern and eastern Africa, serious AIDS epidemics will most probably continue for some time.

Arthur Okwemba, a Kenyan media analyst, said that African governments should not rely on falling prevalence to measure successes in the war against HIV/AIDS.

"We should not rely on prevalence because of its volatility; we need to move to HIV/AIDS incidence studies to determine the number of new infections from every locality," he said.

Source: IANS
VEN/C
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