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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
AFRICA: Researchers Say Africa's Declining HIV/AIDS Prevalence

September 17, 2007
Xinhua News Agency (09.17.07) - Monday, September 17, 2007

On the sidelines of a reproductive health conference in Nairobi over the weekend, an expert warned that reductions in HIV/AIDS figures in some African countries are likely the result of more people dying of the disease rather than effective campaigns to reduce the number of new infections. Dr. Joachim Osur, senior reproductive health expert with IPAS, an international organization specializing in women's health issues, said reported reductions in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda are not good news.

There is no indication that many more people have begun HIV/AIDS treatment, while new infections have continued to soar. "The reducing HIV/AIDS prevalence means many infected people are dying from the disease. It does not mean the situation is getting better," said Osur.

Unity Media for Social Change, an association of East African journalists, held the conference with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. The goal of the meeting was to encourage regional policy debates around reproductive health issues.

Uganda has cut its prevalence rate by almost 70 percent since the 1990s to the current 6.6 percent. While UNAIDS has attributed the decline to "specific interventions," it warns that the failure to distribute antiretrovirals remains a challenge on the continent.

Dr. Patrick Orege, former director of Kenya's National AIDS Control Council, said new infections continue unabated among adolescents and women. Meanwhile, he said, policies have failed to address the issues involving increasing treatment access.

Arthur Okwemba, a Kenyan media analyst, urged African governments not to rely on falling prevalence rates to measure successes in combating HIV/AIDS. "We should not rely on prevalence because of its volatility; we need to move to HIV/AIDS incidence studies to determine the number of new infections from every locality," he said.