HIV Prevalence In Zimbabwe Decreases To 15.6%

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HIV Prevalence

HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe during the past four years has decreasedfrom 18.1% to 15.6%, Owen Mugurungi, head of the AIDS and TB unit atthe Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, said on Wednesday whenannouncing national HIV/AIDS estimates for 2007, the Herald/AllAfrica.com reports (Chipunza, Herald/AllAfrica.com, 11/1).

Accordingto Zimbabwe Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa, thedecrease in HIV prevalence was seen among people ages 15 to 49. WeeklyAIDS-related deaths also declined from 3,000 to 2,300, Parirenyatwasaid. He added that the decline in HIV prevalence is a "significantdrop, but the figures are still very high, and more should be done tofurther lower the numbers."

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About 1.3 million people in Zimbabwe are expected to be living with HIV/AIDS by the end of the year, Xinhua News Agencyreports. However, the number could increase if people do not changetheir behaviors and attitudes toward the disease, Parirenyatwa said (Xinhua News Agency,11/1). In addition, the number of HIV cases among children younger thanage 15 has increased from 125,161 cases in 2003 to 132,938 currently.Mugurungi attributed the increase to the extended survival of childrenreceiving antiretroviral drugs and the low-cost antibiotic cotrimoxazole. According to the Herald/AllAfrica.com, about 18,000 of the 194,000 children in need of cotrimoxazole have access to it, and of the approximately 24,000 children in need of antiretrovirals, about 7,000 have access to them. "We take cognizance of our efforts attained in the antiretroviral rollout programfor the decline in the prevalence rate," Mugurungi said, adding, "If wetake out the impact of antiretrovirals, the prevalence rate could havebeen 15.3%."

The 2007 estimates were compiled using data from prenatal clinics at 19 sites in the country, the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey 2005-2006,the national census, testing and counseling data, and the Prevention ofMother-to-Child Transmission Program, the Herald/AllAfrica.com reports(Herald/AllAfrica.com, 11/1).

According to the AP/International Herald Tribune,some analysts were "skeptical" of the figures because of the "lack ofmedical care" in the country. In addition, although Zimbabwe said itsestimates were verified by the United Nations, UNAIDSdisagreed. "It looks like they've used the methodology that werecommended," UNAIDS spokesperson Sophie Barton-Knott said, adding that"however, as we haven't received this data officially, we cannotvalidate it."

UNICEFsaid the decline in prevalence is "one of the most significant andrapid declines of any country in the world." The organization addedthat "mortality also played a hand in the drop." Other analysts saidthat they doubt the estimates because of the problems with Zimbabwe'seconomy and infrastructure, lack of access to health care and thedifficulty of using statistics when as much as one-third of thepopulation has left the country. "I think with the current state ofaffairs in Zimbabwe, one would be kind of skeptical about statistics,which could also be caused by an undercount, by mass migration," DavidBourne of the University of Cape Town said (AP/International Herald Tribune, 11/1).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.

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