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The impact of HIV/AIDS on Southern Africa's Children

4. What We Know
 
Although Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia and Zambia all have HIV prevalence rates higher than South Africa, there are more South Africans infected than in any other SADC country, thought to be 5 million HIV positive adults and children at the end of 2001. Not only are the prevalence rates for these seven countries high, but also they are still on the increase. Zimbabwe had the greatest prevalence increase between 1999 and 2001, during which time prevalence increased by 8.64 percentage points. During the same period Swaziland’s HIV prevalence increased 8.15% points and Lesotho’s 7.43% points. This shows that even in some of the hardest hit countries, prevalence rates have not yet reached the plateau of the epidemiological curve. At the other end of the spectrum, Mauritius has the lowest HIV prevalence, the percentage of adults infected has yet to pass 1%. HIV prevalence will remain low in Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Similarly, HIV prevalence has not increased in the United Republic of Tanzania or Mozambique. In fact prevalence declined slightly in both these countries between 1999 and 2001. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi also experienced a decline in HIV prevalence 1999 and 2001. Although a decline in HIV prevalence in these four countries may indicate that the epidemic is coming under control it might be because of data problems; and because more people are dying of AIDS than are becoming infected with HIV. Therefore declines in HIV prevalence need to be interpreted with care, they may also hide huge differences within countries.

Key point: Women bear a disproportionate burden of this disease. They are more likely to be infected, (for physiological and social reasons) and they bear the burden of care of the sick and dying.


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