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Inter Press Service
HEALTH-ZAMBIA: Unicef Calls For Action Against HIV/AIDS
Anthony Mukwita
December 8, 1999
LUSAKA, Dec 8 (IPS) - UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has called upon the government of President Frederick Chiluba to double its efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Zambia.

"The magnitude (of HIV/AIDS) is much bigger than we initially thought," says Peter McDermott, Unicef Resident Representative in Zambia. "We have information and studies which tell us that we need urgent action to combat the scourge and an alarm ought to be sounded."

McDermott says orphans and women are the most affected by the disease. Latest studies, conducted by the Zambian ministry of health, show that about 600,000 children have been orphaned by the killer disease.

The number of orphans, the study says, will hit the one million mark by the beginning of the new millennium, adversely impacting on the country's resources which have to be split between better health care for Zambia's ailing population and to servicing a huge foreign debt.

Zambia, with a foreign debt of about 6.5 billion US Dollars, spends very little on health and education, as a result of debt servicing.

The number of AIDS deaths in Zambia from the time the epidemic began in the 1980s is estimated at about 650,000.

Between 1999 and 2014 some 1.61 million Zambia of about 2.26 million deaths by 2014, the study adds.

According to the study, the impact will be morproductive members of society. Other studies carried out in the Zambian minin of Ndola, hardest hit by the scourge, reveals that the high rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) infections has a lot to do with the reason the scourge is ever on the rise in Zambia.

The studies show that at least 11.3 percent of men in Ndola and 14 percent of women have syphilis. And that 39 percent of sexually active men and 17 percent of sexually active women in Zambia had a non-regular partner in the last 12 months.

The studies also show that the tradition of usint of women used condoms, while traditional practices such as circumcision, in which a non-sterile instrument is used, were also cited as a reason for the high infection rate.

By the time Zambian children reach the age of 15, the studies say, they would have already had sexual intercourse, either with boys and girls their own age or someone older than them.

To combat the spread of the disease, the Zambian government is drafting a policy that they hope would help bring the scourge to manageable levels.

Zambia, with a population of 10 million people,S in Africa. In fact, Africa, with 10 percent of the world's population, currently has 70 percent of the 34 million global cases of HIV/AIDS, according to the UN World Health Organisation. (END/IPS/am/mn/99)