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U.N. Report Released Ahead Of International AIDS Conference: HIV Prevalence Drops Among Young Africans

The number of new HIV infections among young people in Africa is falling in most of the “25 countries hardest hit by the virus,” according to a report released Tuesday by UNAIDS, the Associated Press reports (Cheng, 7/13).

“HIV prevalence among young people has declined by more than 25% in 15 of the 25 countries most affected by AIDS,” according to a UNAIDS press release that highlights the 60 percent decline in HIV prevalence in Kenya between 2000 and 2005. “Similarly in Ethiopia there was a 47% reduction in HIV prevalence among pregnant young women in urban areas and a 29% change in rural areas,” the press release says (7/13).

The report (.pdf), released in Geneva ahead of the International AIDS Conference, notes that the target to reduce HIV prevalence by 25 percent in 2010 was “agreed at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 and endorsed by member states at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001.”

According to the report, “Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe have all achieved [the] goal … to reduce HIV prevalence in 15 to 24-year-olds by 25 percent by 2010,” Reuters adds. “Burundi, Lesotho, Rwanda, Swaziland, the Bahamas and Haiti were all ‘likely to achieve’ it” (Kellang, 7/13).

The Guardian details the methodology used in the study: “Most of the figures [included in the report] come from antenatal clinics, where pregnant young women are tested. Mathematical modelling shows that they are a good indicator of trends across the whole age group. Population surveys are better, however, and were available in seven countries.” The newspaper writes: “In six of those countries, a drop in prevalence was seen among young women – but in only four out of the seven was there a drop in prevalence among young men.” The piece also includes comments from Michel Sidibe, head of UNAIDS, who said “that young people were leading a badly needed prevention revolution” (Boseley, 7/13).

The study links the drop in HIV prevalence to changes in sexual behavior, according to Reuters. “Young people in 13 of the 25 countries were waiting longer before they become sexually active. In more than half of the 25 countries, young people were choosing to have fewer sexual partners. Condom use was also on the increase, the study found, with 10 countries reporting more use of condoms among women and 13 reporting increased condom use among men. Cameroon, Tanzania and Uganda reported increases in condom use by both sexes.” Reuters adds that the report “called on governments worldwide to learn from this progress and provide comprehensive programmes for sexual health education, access to HIV testing and wide availability of prevention methods such as condoms” (7/13).

VOA News Report On Efforts To Stop Spread Of HIV/AIDS In Asia

In related news, VOA News reports on efforts being made in Asia to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, by targeting high-risk populations: “The U.S. Agency for International Development’s HIV/AIDS advisor here, Lisa Baldwin, says while Indonesia has only a 0.1 percent HIV infection rate nationally, the rate for injecting drug users in Jakarta is 56 percent. For sex workers it is 16 percent,” the news service writes.

The article details some of the challenges associated with reaching out to high-risk groups as well as the recent progress in HIV prevention and treatment programs in Asia (Padden, 7/12).

New York Times Examines Health Risks Associated Heroin Addicts’ Practice Of Injecting Others’ Blood

Also, the New York Times reports that “[d]esperate heroin users in a few African cities have begun engaging in a practice … [where] they deliberately inject themselves with another addict’s blood, researchers say, in an effort to share the high or stave off the pangs of withdrawal. … The practice, called flashblood or sometimes flushblood, is not common, but has been reported in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on the island of Zanzibar and in Mombasa, Kenya.”

The practice “puts users at the highest possible risk of contracting AIDS and hepatitis. While most AIDS transmission in Africa is by heterosexual sex, the use of heroin is growing in some cities,” the newspaper writes, adding “In most East African countries like Tanzania and Kenya, only 3 to 8 percent of adults are infected with the AIDS virus, far fewer than in southern Africa, where the rates reach 15 to 25 percent. But among those who inject heroin, the rates are far higher. In Tanzania, about 42 percent of addicts are infected” (McNeil, 7/12).