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Doubts Voiced on Research Showing Drop in Zimbabwe HIV Infection Rate

Some Zimbabwean health experts and advocates for those living with HIV have taken issue with a recent study suggesting the country's deep economic crisis helped reduce the HIV prevalence rate or the percentage of adults infected with the deadly virus.

The research suggested the prevalence rate declined markedly at a time when the national health system was collapsing, offering the explanation that economic hard times discouraged risky behavior in particular by men who given the means might stray sexually.

But the study also found tuberculosis has reached alarming levels in Zimbabwe.

The research by Canadian infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Silverman sampled more than 18,000 pregnant women in Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central province, and found that the HIV prevalence rate in that population fell to 11% in late 2008 from 23% in 2001.

Dr. Silverman presented his findings recently at an HIV/Aids conference in Cape Town.

He said deaths and general behavioral changes also contributed to the prevalence decline.

But some in Zimbabwe do not agree with the findings, saying they understate the severity of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, adding that the sample may not have been representative.

Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported on the debate.

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