Nearly 19 Million People Living With HIV/AIDS in East, Southern Africa, According to WHO
Approximately 18.6 million people in East and Southern Africa were HIV-positive at the end of 2002, according to World Health Organization statistics presented last week at a WHO workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe, Xinhua News Agency reports. Elizabeth Mason, acting director of WHO's Division of Communicable Diseases, presented the statistics at the opening of a three-day workshop, titled "Scaling Up Access to Care and Treatment for People Living with HIV/AIDS in the East and Southern African Sub-Region." The statistics also show that of the 42 million HIV/AIDS cases in the world in 2002, 29.4 million were in Africa. Three million of the cases in Africa were among children under age 15. In addition, 2.4 million of the total three million AIDS-related deaths in 2002 were in Africa. Mason said that although some countries' HIV prevention programs have been successfully scaled up, the need for HIV/AIDS care and treatment cannot be ignored.
Dan Makuto, WHO senior adviser to the executive director of Family and Community Health in Geneva, said, "We must scale up access to antiretroviral treatment in order to close the huge and unacceptable gap between access and need." Steven Shongwe, the secretary of the Commonwealth Regional Health Community Secretariat for East, Central and Southern Africa, said, "Increased access to [antiretroviral therapy] will help remove stigmatization and discrimination as more people will share their experience and [are] motivated to know their HIV status, thus bringing hope instead of despair." The workshop participants are expected to develop a status report on care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS in the 17 participating countries: Angola, Botswana, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The participants are also planning to develop a framework for scaling up and implementing access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment (Xinhua News Agency, 7/10).