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AIDS a deadly enemy for Africa

Ingrid Kealotswe and son Onilegape are HIV-positive and are getting free AIDS drugs in Botswana.
Ingrid Kealotswe and son Onilegape are HIV-positive and are getting free AIDS drugs in Botswana.

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Population: 1.55 million
Adults with HIV: 300,000
Children with HIV: 28,000
AIDS deaths: 26,000
Living orphans: 69,000

Source: Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS for 2001

(CNN) -- AIDS has cast a lengthening shadow across the world since doctors first identified it in 1981. Sub-Saharan Africa has been the hardest hit region.

Of the 5 million people infected globally in 2002, 3.5 million were in sub-Saharan Africa, according to figures from the U.N. Development Program. Of the estimated 42 million people living with HIV/AIDS, 29.4 million are in the region, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS.

And Botswana -- where President Bush on Thursday promoted his $15 million HIV/AIDS initiative -- has the world's highest prevalence of adult AIDS sufferers.

UNAIDS estimates that about 38 percent of Botswana's adult population is infected, and life expectancy in the country is between 35 and 40 years old.

Infection figures for the adult populations of Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe are all also greater than 30 percent, according to UNAIDS.

Botswana was the first African country to adopt a policy of making antiretroviral drugs available to all citizens needing them, but the latest UNAIDS figures show only 2,000 people are benefiting from the commitment.

"Sixty million Africans have been touched by AIDS in the most immediate way. They are either living with HIV, have died of AIDS or they have lost their parents to AIDS. But the toll of those directly affected is even higher," said Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, on Thursday.

He was speaking during the Global Forum on Health and Development at the Africa Union Summit in Mozambique where U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged international donors to do more.

"Africa's efforts are being systematically undermined -- by a virus so cruel that it strikes young adults as they are poised to enter their most productive years and assume the mantle of leadership," Annan said.

Bush's plan will direct $15 billion to fight AIDS abroad over the next five years, beginning with $2 billion in 2004. It will concentrate on 14 countries in Africa and the Caribbean devastated by AIDS.

The Bush proposal is modeled after a program in Uganda known as the "ABC" approach: A being abstinence, B being faithful in marriage and C being condom use.

UNAIDS said Uganda has shown intervention and education can bring results in the battle against HIV/AIDS.

In Uganda, HIV prevalence has dropped among 15- to 19-year-old pregnant women, condom use by single women almost doubled between 1995 and 2000-01, and more women in that age group are delaying having sex or abstaining, UNAIDS figures show.

The Bush initiative intends to prevent 7 million new infections, treat 2 million HIV-infected people and care for 10 million HIV-infected patients and AIDS orphans.

The 14 countries to benefit from Bush's program are: Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

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