Washington Post Examines How Peace, Poverty, Poor Health Infrastructure Leading to Higher HIV Prevalence in Angola
The Washington Post on Sunday examined how two years of peace in war-torn Angola have highlighted the social dislocation, poor public health programs and low education levels that could contribute to rising HIV prevalence in the country. Currently, Angola's estimated HIV prevalence is less than 10% among adults, a rate that is less than half the HIV prevalence in the neighboring countries of Congo and Zambia and about one-fourth the HIV prevalence in Botswana. Angola's decades-long civil war kept the country "in a kind of medical time warp" as a result of closed borders and little movement among civilians, according to the Post. However, two years after the war's end, increased movement among civilians, a surge of refugees returning from camps located in countries with higher HIV prevalence and the return of soldiers are bringing HIV to areas where it previously was rare. Increased prevalence already has been recorded among commercial sex workers and pregnant women in the capital city of Luanda, and a national study to be completed in the coming months is expected to show an increase in HIV prevalence among the entire population. UNICEF officials estimate that 500,000 Angolans are HIV-positive, according to the Post.
Country Lacks Funds, Adequate Health Care System
As a result of Angola's relatively low HIV prevalence rate, the country has received much less international funding aimed at fighting HIV/AIDS than other African countries, the Post reports. For example, Angola is not one of the 12 African countries set to receive funding to fight HIV/AIDS under the Bush administration's five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The country's lower HIV prevalence also has led to a lag in medical response and public understanding of HIV/AIDS. Much of the country's public health system was destroyed during the war, contributing to a shortage of hospital beds and medications, such as antiretroviral drugs. Angola currently has only 12 HIV testing and counseling centers nationwide, and the country has fewer billboards and public education campaigns about the disease than other African countries, the Post reports (Timberg, Washington Post, 9/19).