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HIV rates up in South Africa, Russia, Ireland

HIV rates up in South Africa, Russia, Ireland

Health officials in South Africa, Russia, and Ireland this week announced that HIV infection rates are rising in all three nations, with the number of South Africans living with HIV now over 5 million. The estimated number of HIV-positive people in South Africa grew by 12% in 2002 to 5.3 million, according to a South African Department of Health report released Wednesday. The number of HIV-positive people in the country in 2001 stood at about 4.74 million. The study found that HIV prevalence for pregnant women under age 20 remained stable for the fourth year in a row. While the number of HIV cases in the country climbed last year, health officials say the epidemic is actually slowing in the AIDS-ravaged nation. They based that conclusion on the fact that new HIV cases are not rising among pregnant women under age 20, which health officials consider a bellwether group for the nation's epidemic. "These findings support the view that, although the HIV infection rate is high in South Africa, there has been a significant slowing down in the spread of the epidemic, and South Africa can be considered to have a slow-developing epidemic," the report said. The number of Russians registered as HIV-positive has reached 250,000, and efforts to stem the disease's rapid spread have failed, officials said Wednesday. The proportion of HIV patients who contracted the virus through sexual contact doubled from 6% in 2001 to 12% last year, according to Russia's chief epidemiologist, Gennady Onishchenko. HIV/AIDS struck Russia relatively late but spread rapidly due to rising intravenous drug use and a lack of prevention programs. Health experts estimate the actual number of HIV-positive people in Russia may be 1.5 million. New HIV cases in Ireland climbed 22% in 2002, with about two thirds of all new infections reported among heterosexuals, Agence France-Presse reports. Officials with Ireland's National Disease Surveillance Center said that new HIV diagnoses among heterosexuals were almost double the number reported just one year earlier. More than 80% of the new infections were reported among people ages 20 to 40. More than half of the 364 new HIV cases reported in 2002 were among women. There have been 369 AIDS-related deaths in Ireland since the beginning of the epidemic.

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