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AIDS Higher Among South African Children

December 6, 2002

South Africa's first nationally representative study on HIV/AIDS, commissioned by former President Nelson Mandela, shows a higher than expected level of HIV infection -- 5.6 percent -- among children ages two to 14. "This is a serious and urgent problem," said Mandela at the launch of the "Nelson Mandela/HCRSC Study of HIV/AIDS." "Without children there can be no nation, there can be no future leaders of our country," he said. Part government-funded, the Human Sciences Research Council was the body commissioned by Mandela to conduct the survey.

The study also found that 13 percent of children ages two to 14 had lost a mother, father or both parents to AIDS. The study found 11.4 percent (4.5 million people) of South Africans are infected with HIV, more than any other country in the world. HIV prevalence among those ages 15 to 49 is 15.6 percent.

The 84-year-old Mandela was speaking from a podium bearing a poster showing his face and the words "Good Leaders Lead," a reference to his dedication in the fight against AIDS since leaving office in 1999. "It tells us that HIV and AIDS affects all South Africans -- men, women and children, youth, adults and even older people, Africans, whites, colored [mixed race] and Indians," Mandela said. "This study also shows us that we need to focus our attention not only on Africans, but also on whites and coloreds."

While at 12.9 percent, HIV infection among black South Africans is the highest, the infection among whites is 6.2 percent -- "considerably higher," said the report, than in the United States, Australia and France "where prevalence among whites is less than 1 percent."

The study also revealed widespread support among South Africans for the provision of antiretroviral drugs, Mandela said.

Two hundred field workers visited the homes of 9,963 people throughout South Africa during the research. Nearly 9,000 people agreed to be tested for HIV infection. People in institutions such as prisons, boarding schools and military barracks were not included in the sample.

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Excerpted from:
Associated Press
12.05.02; Sahm Venter

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