Zimbabwe’s New HIV/AIDS Figures Suggest Drop in HIV/AIDS Cases; Health Officials Say Further Study Needed To Confirm Drop
Zimbabwe officials on Thursday released new national HIV/AIDS prevalence data that indicated a possible drop in the number of HIV-positive people in the country, Reuters reports. According to the report, 1.82 million of the nation's 14 million people are living with HIV or AIDS (Reuters, 8/21). The figures, compiled using surveys conducted by local experts with technical assistance from the CDC, WHO, UNAIDS and the Imperial College of London, say that 24.9% of Zimbabwean adults are HIV-positive, down from 33.7% in 2000, as reported by UNAIDS (Agence France-Presse, 8/21). In 2001, UNAIDS had predicted that the country would have 2.3 million HIV-positive people by 2003 (Reuters, 8/21). Zimbabwe Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said that the new data suggest that HIV prevalence in prenatal clinic surveys peaked in 2000 at 34%, fell in 2001 to 30% and decreased further in 2002 to 25.7%, according to Agence France-Presse. Owen Mugurungi, AIDS and TB coordinator for the country's Ministry of Health, said the new estimates used "updated and more accurate" data, compared with the earlier UNAIDS figures, although both sets of figures used the same software. Parirenyatwa said the figures "indicate a lower estimate of national HIV prevalence" that "give[s] me a lot of hope," adding, "The target is to reduce the HIV prevalence to a single digit" (Agence France-Presse, 8/21). However, Parirenyatwa said that "more work was needed" to determine if the recent prevalence estimates marked a "true drop" from the UNAIDS figures, according to Reuters (Reuters, 8/21).
One of 'Worst-Affected' Nations
Despite the apparent decline in HIV/AIDS prevalence in Zimbabwe, Parirenyatwa acknowledged that the country is still one of the countries "worst-affected" by HIV/AIDS. Zimbabwe health officials estimate that there are 2,500 HIV/AIDS-related deaths in the country each week, Reuters reports. In addition, the new estimates suggest that 294,000 people in the country will test positive for HIV and an additional 252,000 people will be diagnosed with AIDS in 2003. According to Zimbabwean officials, the country's fight against HIV/AIDS has been hindered by "an acute shortage of foreign currency which has hampered imports of essential drugs," Reuters reports (Reuters, 8/21).