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International News

Angola Next on Africa's AIDS Hitlist?

November 18, 2003

During its nearly three decades of civil war, large areas of Angola were closed to civilian movement, which health officials believe may have slowed the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic ravaging much of the rest of Africa.

But an April 2002 peace accord between the government and the UNITA rebel movement has allowed Angolans to cross the country freely again, and experts fear they are taking HIV with them. Nationwide figures on HIV prevalence in Angola, compiled four years ago, showed incidence at roughly 5.5 percent -- much lower than the 20-30 percent prevalence rates in other African countries. Should the figures start to rise, Angola is ill-equipped to deal with the crisis.

Sixty percent of Angola's hospitals were destroyed during the 27-year civil war, and its infrastructure was shattered. Nearly one-third of Angolans have never heard of HIV, and close to 70 percent of the population is under age 24. Rife poverty, malnutrition and the world's highest fertility rate fuel fears of an HIV/AIDS pandemic.

UNICEF said that 2003-4 could be a "window of opportunity" for Angola to avoid that outcome. "These next 12 months are absolutely critical in Angola," stated Melanie Luick, head of UNICEF Angola's AIDS program. "Youth in this country are filled with determination and hope and it is up to government and the international community to harness this in the name of social change."

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At youth centers, UNICEF runs a program to promote AIDS awareness, encourage condom use, and help Angolan young people become more open to talking about sex. "These centers are not just about having HIV or not," said Luick. "They're about giving kids the ability to enter into the formal economy as well as to get a better education... and through that they have less of a chance of contracting HIV."

Back to other news for November 18, 2003

Adapted from:
Reuters
11.15.03; Zoe Eisenstein


  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
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