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UN AIDS Report Expresses Caution On HIV Decline In Zimbabwe

United Nations health authorities have expressed a note of caution about the extent of the decline in HIV prevalence registered in Zimbabwe in recent years - though a new report credits Zimbabwe with being the only African nation to bring down its rate.

Previous studies concluded that the HIV prevalence rate in Zimbabwe fell from roughly one in four sexually active adults to one in five. Researchers attributed the progress to a reduction in casual sexual relations and the increased use of condoms.

But the UNAIDS and World Health Organization 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update released this week states the caveat that the actual decline in Zimbabwe's HIV prevalence may have been inflated by "inconsistencies and biases in data," which was mainly based on samples taken in clinics for expectant mothers. However, the report does note declines in HIV prevalence in rural populations in Manicaland Province.

The larger U.N. report painted a bleak picture of the extent of the pandemic, noting an increase in infection rates in all regions of the world. According to the UNAIDS/WHO report, the epidemic has claimed nearly 3 million lives since 2004. The report added that another 4.3 million people became infected with HIV over that period.

The report noted a resurgence in HIV infection in Uganda and other countries.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the epicenter of the pandemic: the report estimated that about 25 million people in the region are infected with HIV, around two-thirds of world cases. Sub-Saharan Africa moreover accounts for nearly three-fourths of all deaths related to AIDS, a total estimated at 2.5-million over the past 25 years.

African women continue to bear the brunt of the burden, suffering higher infection rates than men and providing more care for those getting sick.

Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 For Zimbabwe interviewed AIDS activist Tapiwa Kujinga, who agreed that it was possible as stated in the U.N. report that the extent of the decline in HIV prevalence may have been overstated.

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