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Swaziland Acknowledges AIDS Rate For First Time; Prime Minister Says Antiretrovirals To Prevent Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission Will Be Available Next Month
Swaziland Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini said Thursday in a New Year's address published in newspapers that the country's official HIV prevalence rate has reached 38.6%, up from 34.2% in January 2002, marking the first time the country has acknowledged that it has "one of the highest AIDS rates in the world," Reuters/Contra Costa Times reports. The country now ranks behind only Botswana for the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world (Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 1/2). The Swaziland national AIDS project has said that the practice of polygamy and a reluctance to use condoms are largely responsible for the disease's high prevalence in the country. In May, King Mswati III urged all people in Swaziland to be tested for the virus and called the disease a "national disaster" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/16). Officials say that the prevalence rate could be "much higher," as the figures come from a 2001 report. Dlamini said, "It is enormously disappointing that the education and prevention initiatives of the past year have had so little effect." He added that antiretroviral drugs for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission would be available in government hospitals in February. Advocates say they would "await signs of concrete action from the government" before saying that Swaziland had "turned a corner" in the fight against HIV/AIDS, according to Reuters/Contra Costa Times (Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 1/2).
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