Cameroon's HIV Prevalence Drops From 12% to 5.5% Because of More Accurate Testing Methods, New Survey Shows

Cameroon's HIV prevalence has dropped from about 12% in 2003 to 5.5% this year, according to a new health survey released Wednesday by the country's National AIDS Control Committee, the Associated Press reports. Health officials stressed that the reduction was because of new survey techniques, not a decline in the number of HIV cases, according to the Associated Press. For the first time, people took HIV tests anonymously. Previously, participants were required to give their names (Tumanjong, Associated Press, 10/28). Ninety-one percent of 11,400 people who participated in the Demographic and Health Survey -- which was conducted between October 2003 and August 2004 -- agreed to undergo HIV testing, Joseph Tedou, director of the government's National Institute of Statistics, said, according to IRIN News. The study showed that 6.7% of women and 4.1% of men tested HIV-positive. The government previously estimated the country's HIV prevalence to be 11.8%. "The study that put Cameroon's prevalence rate at nearly 12% was carried out by monitoring pregnant women during their prenatal consultations in clinics and AIDS screening centers," Tedou said, adding, "The [new] survey is more scientific and more broadly based." UNAIDS estimates that Cameroon's HIV prevalence is 6.9% (IRIN News, 10/29).

Cameroon's Health Minister Urbain Olanguena Awono said, "The low serology rate announced through this survey does not mean that we should fold our hands and say Cameroon is not really affected by HIV/AIDS," adding, "This is the time for us to examine the strategies used to fight the pandemic and seek ways of ameliorating the existing strategies to better combat the plague" (Associated Press, 10/28). Valere Mve Koh, an OB/GYN in Cameroon's capital Yaounde, said, "Every year at the end of November, there is a Cameroonian week to fight AIDS, during which free screening is available throughout the country, and the figures we get from that are similar to those revealed in this survey" (IRIN News, 10/29).

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