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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
AFRICA: World Health Organization Reports Progress, Many
Emmanuel Camillo
August 24, 2005
Associated Press (08.24.05) - Wednesday, August 24, 2005

While Africa has seen progress against diseases like leprosy, it has suffered many setbacks in the fight to stop the spread of AIDS, TB and malaria, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. A weeklong WHO meeting began Monday in Maputo, Mozambique.

More than 60 percent of all people with HIV live in sub- Saharan Africa, WHO says. In 2004, it is estimated that 2.3 million people in the region died of AIDS, while another 3.1 million became infected with HIV. AIDS has slashed life expectancy to below 40 years in Botswana, Central African Republic, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Swaziland, and Zambia. In Zimbabwe, life expectancy has plummeted from 52 years in 1990 to 34 in 2003.

The news was slightly better from some East Africa countries: HIV rates are declining in Ethiopia and Kenya. Uganda reported a steep drop from a 13 percent infection rate in the early 1990s to 4.1 percent by the end of 2003.

Malaria is Africa's top killer. Luis Gomes Sambo, WHO's regional director for Africa, said malaria is being addressed through both national and community programs including the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Three more countries reached their leprosy elimination goals in 2004, for a total of 39. Guinea worm cases were down by 22.5 percent from 2003 to 2004.

But Africa has seen a TB spike described as "lamentable" by Sambo. The disease, which has multiplied four-fold in 18 of the hardest-hit nations since 1990, now kills a half-million Africans annually. Although 42 African nations follow WHO's recommended six-month regimen for treating TB, the rate of accurate detection remains below international standards. Access to TB drugs and trained staff must be increased, Sambo said.