Continent’s Aids rate will double to 14 million in next five years



Mark Huband in Abidjan

The Guardian, 20 December 1991

Africa’s Aids epidemic threatens to halt the continent’s economic development by reversing population growth, with an estimated doubling of adult infection rates to 14 million in the next five years, the sixth conference on Aids in Africa was told this week.

Six million Africans account for more than half the 10 million people infected worldwide. In Africa, 750,000 children are infected with the HIV virus, received from their mothers.

Africa’s educated elite is particularly badly hit, and its depletion will seriously affect the continent’s development, Michael Merson, head of the World Health Organisation’s aids programme, told scientists at the conference in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

The pattern of Aids in Africa differs from developed countries in two respects. The disease is contracted mainly through heterosexual sex, rather than homosexual sex or drug use, and the prevalent HIV-2 virus has a different structure from strains found in the West.

Research in Senegal showed HIV-l was transmitted more easily and rapidly through sexual contact than HIV-2. With HIV-2, there was almost no transmission from mother to child while at least 30 per cent of pregnant women with HIV-l pass the disease to their children.


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