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Zimbabwe HIV Prevalence Rate Down - UNAIDS Study

The United Nations agency charged with fighting AIDS has come out with good news, in relative terms, for Zimbabwe. About one in five people in the country between the ages of 15 and 49 is believed to be infected with the virus that causes AIDS, reflecting an improvement from the rate of one in four Zimbabweans found by a 2002 study.

Zimbabwe is only the second country in Sub-Saharan Africa, following Uganda, to see a decline in its HIV infection rate.

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, says preliminary results from a study conducted in 2004 indicate that the so-called HIV prevalence rate within the active general population has declined to 20.1% from 24.6% in 2002.

Among pregnant women the rate declined to 21.3% from 24.6% in the earlier study.

An official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, also involved in the Zimbabwe study, said researchers received data from prenatal clinics, collected and samples from the general population. Several universities also participated in the study.

Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with UNAIDS Director for Advocacy, Communication and Leadership Achmat Dangor about how researchers proceeded, among other aspects of the study.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Health and Child Welfare Minister Dr. David Parirenyatwa as saying that the infection rate dropped because Zimbabweans were modifying their behavior in the face of the deadly pandemic. There were fewer casual sexual encounters and sexually transmitted diseases were down overall.

"Girls are now delaying when it comes to starting sexual activity and almost everyone in the country has an understanding of what HIV is all about," he told the Herald.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...