Report: AIDS in Africa may be overstated

Rural areas in Africa aren't hit as hard as expected by HIV, say researchers.

BY Mike Grippi

April 08 2006 12:00 AM ET

Although most
global researchers estimate the HIV prevalence rate in a
country based on the percentage of pregnant women at
prenatal clinics found to be HIV-positive, that
approach could be producing wildly inaccurate
estimates, The Washington Post reports. In
Rwanda, for example, the United Nations estimated the HIV
prevalence rate to be 13%, but a new nationwide HIV survey
shows that among residents ages 15 to 49 the rate is
actually about 3%. Some groups had claimed
Rwanda’s rate was as high as 30%.

Researchers say
using data from prenatal clinics results doesn’t
reflect the true nature of the disease in a country.
The estimates were skewed in favor of young, sexually
active women in areas with prenatal clinics, typically
larger cities. Nation-by-nation surveys have shown that
these urban areas have much higher HIV rates than a
country’s general population.

These statistical
modeling approaches have greatly overestimated the
spread of the disease in eastern and western Africa, they
say. But the estimates are much more accurate in
southern Africa, where HIV’s impact is far
greater than in other parts of the continent, according to
researchers. HIV prevalence rates are alarmingly high in
South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

In Botswana
numerous studies have shown that about 35% of the
nation’s adults are HIV-positive; in
Francistown, Botswana’s second-largest city,
nearly 45% of men and 70% of women ages 30 to 34 are
infected. (The Advocate)

Tags: Health

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