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International News

Africa: Battle Against Virus Shows Signs of Progress

January 16, 2009

New data from UNAIDS show that several African countries with high HIV prevalence rates have made significant gains in preventing new infections. The agency's latest report says changes in sexual behavior in Rwanda and Zimbabwe have led to a drop in new HIV infections, and young people in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia are delaying the start of sexual activity.

Across the continent, AIDS campaigners are calling for people to assess the local situation in terms of what is driving the epidemic and then determine the best way to act on this information.

Examples of "knowing your epidemic" include:

  • In Rwanda, health officials have made a concerted effort to involve male partners in the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. "When I look back to 2004, we just had 6 percent of male partners accompanying their wives to checkup clinics but today we have figures as high as 64 percent," said Anita Asilmwe of the country's National AIDS Control Commission. Government data show nearly 90 percent of children born to HIV-positive mothers are uninfected, compared to less than 40 percent two years ago.
  • In Kenya, HIV prevention messages are shifting from overall AIDS awareness -- more than 90 percent of Kenyans are aware of HIV/AIDS -- to addressing specific at-risk groups. Omu Anzala, director of the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said these include "people who sell sex, people who buy sex, regardless of the kind of sex they buy."

However, in South Africa, home to the world's largest HIV/AIDS caseload, prevention campaigns remain static. The government still takes a "standardized cookie-cutter approach to prevention," said Quarraisha Abdool Karim, associate scientific director at the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa. "We are not targeting our intervention. We do not have adequate coverage of interventions that work; knowledge of HIV status and personal risk is low," Karim said.

Back to other news for January 2009

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
01.10.2009; Zahira Kharsany

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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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