Africa hardest-hit by HIV
December 1, 1996
Web posted at: 10:15 a.m. EST (1515 GMT)
From Correspondent Jim Clancy
(CNN) -- More than half the world's HIV-positive population
lives in Africa, where the virus has cut the average life
expectancy by as much as 10 years in some areas over the past
The alarming rate of HIV infection has led to widespread AIDS
awareness programs throughout the continent. But poverty and
communication problems in rural areas, where the majority of
Africa's population lives, appear to be undermining education
The epidemic prompted Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Sunday
to encourage South Africans to use condoms.
"I want to urge all those who choose to have sex outside of
marriage to take the right precautions and practice safer
sex," said Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
"Please use a condom."
From miners to pregnant women, virus spreads
According to a new United Nations AIDS report, 63 percent of
people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, live
in Africa. Other statistics:
- In South Africa, 10 to 20 percent of mine workers are
- More than 20 percent of pregnant women in Rwanda
and Burundi carry the virus, many unwittingly passing it on
to their unborn children.
- Half the soldiers in some African armies are HIV-positive.
Uganda fights back
In Uganda, the first African country to confront the disease,
50 percent of hospital beds are filled with AIDS patients.
Health ministry figures show 1.8 million people --
10 percent of Uganda's population -- have the HIV virus and
that more than 46,000 people are known to suffer from full
Only one doctor for every 50,000 or more people
exists, and from 1980 to 1994 average life expectancy
dropped from 52 to 42, among the lowest in the world.
Despite the daunting number, Ugandan health service officials
stress that education efforts in urban areas are working.
"The incidence of AIDS has dropped dramatically in the 14-
to 24-year-old age group -- a clear result of the campaign to
increase awareness of the danger AIDS represents," said Dr.
Elizabeth Madraa, Ugandan AIDS control manager.
But spreading the message to rural areas of the
continent has produced less promising results, as many have
yet to part with traditional beliefs about sex.
Some Zambian teen-agers believe their sexual organs will
shrivel up if they don't have intercourse. Other African
cultures prohibit a woman from refusing sex to her husband,
even if he is HIV-positive. And some infected men believe
having sex with a virgin will cure them.
But health officials maintain hope that their
message will help debunk past beliefs and reduce the rate of
infection, as it has in urban areas of Uganda.
"Something is happening," Madraa said, referring to the
reduced cases of AIDS in cities. "It shows that something is
Reuters contributed to this report.
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