USAID to review research on African AIDS pandemic

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 06 2003 12:00 AM ET

The U.S. Agency for International Development on Tuesday announced that it plans to review research published in the International Journal of STD and AIDS that suggested contaminated needles used for vaccinations and medical treatment are more to blame for Africa's AIDS pandemic than heterosexual sex, The Washington Times reports. Most AIDS experts believe that up to 90% of all HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa are transmitted through unprotected heterosexual sex. But a team of researchers last month claimed that unsafe medical practices, such as reusing hypodermic needles, and contaminated blood supplies account for the vast majority of the estimated 30 million HIV cases in Africa.

"It is possible that we have underestimated" the number of people infected through unsafe medical practices, said Anne Peterson, head of the USAID bureau of global health. "We plan to take a pretty hard look at this."

The implications of the suggestion that unsafe medical practices cause most HIV infection in Africa could be staggering for groups working on HIV prevention in developing countries, most of which focus almost exclusively on promoting monogamy and condom use to prevent infections.