Rise in Angola’s HIV/AIDS Prevalence ‘Worrying,’ Health Minister Says
Angola -- which has the lowest HIV prevalence of any Southern African nation -- recently has recorded a "sharp rise" in the number of HIV-positive people living in the country, Angolan Health Minister Albertina Hamukwaya told the Portuguese state television station RTP Africa on Wednesday, AFP/News24.com reports. Calling the situation "worrying," Hamukwaya said that the increase has been "especially strong" in the coastal provinces of Luanda and Benguela, as well as the province of Cunene, which borders Namibia. She added that a nationwide HIV prevalence study was under way and should be released at the end of December, according to AFP/News24.com.
Health experts say Angola's HIV prevalence, which official statistics estimate is 5% to 7%, remained lower than other Southern African nations' rates because a 27-year civil war, which ended in April 2002, kept foreigners away and limited travel in the country (AFP/News24.com, 10/7). 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, and increased prevalence has been recorded among commercial sex workers and pregnant women in the capital city of Luanda. UNICEF officials estimate that 500,000 Angolans are HIV-positive, but because of the country's relatively low HIV prevalence rate, it has received much less international funding aimed at fighting HIV/AIDS than other African countries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/20). About 2% of Angolans have been tested for HIV, according to SABCNews.com (SABCNews.com, 10/5).