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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 14:10 GMT
Africa devastated by Aids
Aids patient
70% of new HIV infections are in Africa
Aids is the biggest threat to Africa's development, according to the United Nations.

The reason is the large numbers of people in key roles who are dying: teachers; farmers; health-workers; civil servants and young professionals.
HIV/Aids in Africa 2001
3.4m new infections
2.3m deaths
28m living with Aids
Life expectancy: 47 years
Without Aids: 62 years
44% of pregnant urban women in Botswana HIV+

Sub-Saharan Africa is by far the region worst affected by HIV and Aids, according to the UNAids and World Health Organization's latest report on the disease.

Aids Epidemic Update - released ahead of World Aids Day on 1 December - makes extremely depressing reading.

It says there were 3.4 million new HIV infections in Africa in 2001, almost 70% of the global total.

Glimmer of hope

This brings to 28.1 million the number of Africans now living with HIV/Aids.

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Click to see Africa's growing epidemic

Within the continent, Southern Africa is hardest-hit, with life-expectancy shrinking rapidly.

In Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland, people now die, on average, before their 40th birthday. Without Aids, they would live until at least 60.

Click here to see life expectancy statistics

The one bright spot is the experience of Uganda, which, through widespread public information, has managed to turn the tide.

HIV prevalence in pregnant women in urban areas has fallen for eight consecutive years - from 29.5% in 1995 to 11.25% in 2000.

Uninformed partners

But elsewhere, ignorance is still the norm.

Unicef says that more than 70% of young girls in Somalia and more than 40% in Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone have not heard of the disease.

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda
Uganda's Museveni has been praised for his fight against Aids

Even in relatively peaceful Kenya, a study by the Population Council said that more than half of the women they surveyed who had acquired HIV had not told their partners, because they feared being beaten or abandoned.

Aids is already holding back economic growth in more than half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, says the UN.

Fewer farmers

A survey of 15 firms in Ethiopia has shown that over a five-year period, 53% of staff illness was Aids-related.

In Burkina Faso, 20% of rural families have cut back their farming activities because of Aids.

South African President Thabo Mbeki
President Mbeki has questioned the link between HIV and Aids

And the pandemic's effects will be felt long into the future.

In Swaziland, the UN says that school enrolment has fallen 36% due to Aids, largely because girls are frequently taken out of classrooms to care for sick relatives.

In 1999, 860,000 African children lost their teacher to Aids.

The report recommends reducing the economic effects of Aids through fast-track training for the replacements of those who die.

Pointing to Uganda, the UN says that even a rampant Aids/HIV epidemic can be brought under control.

But so far, no other country has managed to follow its lead.

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See also:

27 Nov 01 | Africa
30 Jul 01 | Africa
09 Jun 01 | Africa
25 Jun 01 | Africa
22 Apr 01 | Africa
24 Oct 00 | Aids
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