Experts from the Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS and the Word Health Organization published an article in this week's edition of The Lancet medical journal rejecting the theory that the primary means of HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa is unsafe injections. Epidemiological evidence shows that the major mode of HIV transmission in the region continues to be sexual transmission.
However, the organizations agreed that the risk of unsafe injections should be reduced and suggested that data be improved for the identification of such risks (UNAIDS Web site, Feb. 6).
According to the Washington Post, programs that teach safe sex and the use of condoms were vindicated by the report's conclusion that heterosexual sex accounts for as much as 90 percent of adult HIV/AIDS cases in Africa. UNAIDS reported that approximately 26.6 million people in sub-Saharan African were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2003.
One year ago, David Gisselquist, a U.S.-based consultant, said that according to his analysis, dirty needles caused as much as 40 percent of adult HIV/AIDS cases in sub-Saharan Africa (Washington Post, Feb. 6). While UNAIDS and the WHO did not dispute
the danger of unsafe injections, they felt that such an emphasis would minimize the significance of sexual transmission and possibly have a negative effect on efforts to control the transmission of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
Moreover, the article in The Lancet reported that sexual behavior statistics were most likely underestimated in sub-Saharan Africa, with much behavior going unreported. In one study, 23 percent of 980 girls and women between the ages of 15 and 24 who said they never had sex were infected with HIV, yet 16 percent of 958 among this group were also pregnant.
In South Africa, a country that has the most highly developed health care systems in sub-Saharan Africa and a bloodtransfusion system on par with developed countries, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is rampant. This further disproves Gisselquist's theory that unsafe injections are the primary mode of HIV transmission, the authors said (The Lancet, Feb. 7).
(Source: UNWire http://www.unwire.org/, Friday, February 6, 2004)
The Lancet Volume 363 Number 9407
Transmission of HIV-1 infection in sun-Saharan Africa and effect of elimination of unsafe injections
Iol news article:
Sex, not needles, fuels Africa's Aids crisis