African AIDS Epidemic May Have Been Overestimated, Kenyan Government Report Says
Africa's HIV/AIDS epidemic may be "grossly overestimated," according to preliminary findings of the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, the Daily Telegraph/National Post reports. The findings could lead the United Nations and other groups to "rethink" their methods for calculating statistics regarding HIV/AIDS in Africa, according to the Telegraph/Post. Researchers administering the Kenyan survey, which is funded by the CDC, interviewed 8,561 Kenyan men and women to collect health information, 70% of whom also agreed to have blood samples taken for HIV testing. Researchers found that 6.7% of Kenyans are HIV-positive, compared with a previous estimate of 9.4% by the country's Ministry of Health (Blomfield/LaGuardia, Daily Telegraph/National Post, 1/9). Among study participants, 8.7% of women were HIV-positive, compared with 4.5% of men, BBC News reports. In addition, HIV prevalence rates ranged from 1% in Kenya's North Eastern province to 14% in Nyanza province (BBC News, 1/9). Also, only 13% of women and 14% of men in the country are estimated to know their HIV status, the Telegraph/Post reports (Daily Telegraph/National Post, 1/9).
Further Results, Other Studies
Kenneth Chebet, director of Kenya's National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Programme, said that the findings indicate that the number HIV-positive people in Kenya has declined 40% over the last four years. Chebet attributed such a decline to AIDS awareness campaigns and deaths from AIDS-related complications (Agence France-Presse, 1/8). Dr. Kevin DeCock, the CDC's Kenya director, said, "The number of HIV-infected people in Kenya ... is lower than previously estimated" (Daily Telegraph/National Post, 1/9). He added, "This is based on ... better, more accurate measurements" (Xinhua News Agency, 1/9). Previous surveys conducted in Mali, Zambia and South Africa have also "hinted" that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa may not be as widespread as previously believed, according to the Telegraph/Post (Daily Telegraph/National Post, 1/9). Other countries, including Cameroon and Tanzania, which have estimated HIV prevalence rates of 12% and 8%, respectively, are planning to conduct population-based surveys to determine their "true" HIV prevalence, BBC News reports (BBC News, 1/9).
The United Nations and the World Health Organization base their estimates of HIV and AIDS prevalence in Africa on anonymous screening of pregnant women in clinics, the results of which are extrapolated to an area's entire population, the Telegraph/Post reports. The results therefore do not include "all known cases of HIV" because they rely primarily on blood tests from prenatal clinics, according to the Telegraph/Post. According to UNAIDS, studies have indicated HIV prevalence among pregnant women is the "best approximation of prevalence in the adult population," the Telegraph/Post reports. However, some experts say that estimates based on HIV prevalence among pregnant women are "inherently flawed" because the women tested are all sexually active and have likely not used condoms. In addition, most of the data are taken from urban clinics where HIV rates are higher than in rural areas, according to the Telegraph/Post. But the United Nations says that studies similar to the Kenyan survey risk underestimating HIV prevalence because many participants are reluctant to answer questions or are absent. In the Kenya study, 30% of eligible participants refused to give blood samples for HIV testing, the Telegraph/Post reports. Although the most recent UNAIDS report found lower overall HIV/AIDS prevalence estimates than the previous year, the report stated that "the number of people living with HIV/AIDS continues to increase in several regions, most markedly in sub-Saharan Africa, with southern Africa registering the highest prevalence." The preliminary results of the Kenyan study estimate that there are 22 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa, and a more detailed report scheduled for release in May is expected to support those findings, according to the Telegraph/Post (Daily Telegraph/National Post, 1/9).