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International News

AIDS Takes Toll on African Militaries

March 4, 2003

AIDS in the military has emerged as a new security threat to developing countries, such as South Africa, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where more than four in 10 soldiers are infected with HIV, according to researcher Radhika Sarin of the Worldwatch Institute.

Estimates by the US National Intelligence Council suggest that 10-60 percent of all soldiers in sub-Saharan African nations are infected with HIV. In some South African military units, the infection rate approaches 90 percent, according to the Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute. That is significantly higher than HIV incidence in the general adult populations of these countries, where the prevalence runs from 2.8 percent in Eritrea to 20.1 percent in South Africa.

High rates of infection in the military may even serve to prolong wars. A study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies linked prolonged fighting and plundering in Congo to high infection rates in the Rwandan army. The Rwandan government, fearful of what would happen when its infected soldiers return home without money for treatment, was "slow to end its involvement in the conflict," Sarin said.

To counter the threat, governments such as Nigeria's have made education about HIV prevention a major part of military training. Nigeria also distributes condoms to soldiers and offers treatment. Such measures work, Sarin said. In Uganda, the military has lowered its HIV rate from more than 10 percent in 1990 to less than 7 percent today by adopting an aggressive program to strengthen AIDS awareness and reduce the disease's stigma.

Back to other CDC news for March 4, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Washington Post
03.04.03; Richard Morin; Claudia Deane



  
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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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