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Increased Condom Use, Less Casual Sex Among Youth in Zimbabwe Helping to Reduce Spread of HIV

August 14, 2007

A "generational shift" toward less casual sex and increased condom use among young people in Zimbabwe is helping to reduce the spread of HIV in the country, researchers have said recently, the McClatchy/Miami Herald reports (Bengali, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 8/12).

About 3,000 Zimbabweans die weekly from AIDS-related illnesses, and one in four children in the country has lost one or both parents to the disease, according to UNICEF. About one in five Zimbabwean adults is living with HIV, but recent surveys show that HIV cases have decreased in recent years. The most recent nationwide survey, which was conducted in 2005 and 2006, estimated the country's adult HIV prevalence at 18.1%. Researchers say that the prevalence peaked a few years earlier at 25% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/16).

Experts say that fewer Zimbabweans are contracting HIV as a result of a "near universal awareness" of HIV/AIDS and the risks of unsafe sex, the McClatchy/Herald reports. Epidemiologists from Imperial College London last year found a significant decrease in the number of sexual partners among men in the eastern countryside of Manicaland, Zimbabwe. They also found that fewer teenage boys and girls had become sexually active. In addition, some experts have suggested that an economic decline in the country has changed the sexual habits of some men, which might be contributing to the decreasing number of HIV cases recorded in the country.

Richard Chimbiri -- who writes about HIV for the Financial Gazette, an independent weekly newspaper -- said, "Some guys would have four or five girlfriends if they could. But the economic situation and the risk of HIV -- it's all conspiring to make people change their attitudes."

However, much of the decrease in recorded HIV cases is because of the large number of AIDS-related deaths in the country, the McClatchy/Herald reports. Antiretroviral drugs often are unavailable or unaffordable, and many HIV-positive people have left the country because of its economic situation (McClatchy/Miami Herald, 8/12).

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