ABIDJAN, 2 December 1999 (IRIN) - While 200,000 people died last year in Africa as a result of conflicts and natural disasters, two million died of AIDS, Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UN-AIDS), said on Wednesday.
In a news conference at UN headquarters in New York on the occasion of World AIDS Day, he said AIDS was the most deadly undeclared war and a challenge to the international community.
Some 50 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. Of these some 16 million had died, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte said on the same occasion. Also, speaking at the venue were the Regional Director of Eastern and Southern Africa of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Urban Johnson, and the chief executive officer and president of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Deborah Fraser Hauz.
Piot said commemoration of the occasion was to remember all those who had died of AIDS and to "re-energize" the battle against the disease.
About 95 percent of AIDS orphans lived in sub-Sahara Africa, he said, and a UNICEF report says children orphaned by the disease painted the most tragic picture. For each adult that died, it says, four to six remained behind. At the beginning of the epidemic their numbers had reached 11 million. By the end of next year, the agency said, a cumulative total of 30 million children would have lost a mother, or both parents to AIDS.
Another dimension of the AIDS pandemic in Africa is that for the first time infected women aged from 15 to 49 outnumbered infected men.
Nigeria: 2.6 million HIV infected
Statistics released for Nigeria show that 2.6 million people are infected and this will have reached 4.9 million by 2003, in a country where the infection rate exceeds 20 percent in some areas. This rate doubles that of neighbours Benin, Chad and Niger.
These findings, in the most comprehensive survey of the spread of HIV in the country (Africa's most populous), concludes the growing HIV epidemic will have major social and economic repercussions on Nigeria.
A report accompanying the findings says that an estimated 5.4 percent of adult Nigerians now carry the virus.
Liberia: Infection spreading alarmingly
In Liberia, Health Minister Dr. Peter Coleman said HIV infection was spreading at an alarming rate, independent Star radio reported on Wednesday. He said more than 100,000 people tested were HIV positive. Star quoted him as saying that this figure had increased by over 20,000 additional cases in the last two months.
The radio said the National Aids Control Programme (NACP) had reported some 60,000 people were infected with the virus. The head of NACP, Dr. Isabelle Simbay, said most of those infected were between the ages of 15 and 29, Star reported.
Meanwhile, the pollution Control Association of Liberia (POCAL) has launched an HIV/AIDS prevention programme among teenagers. The programme is designed to encourage sexual abstinence or, if impossible, then the use of condoms. POCAL blamed the spread of the disease among teens on uncontrolled sex, alcohol and drugs abuse.
The organization recently launched an HIV/AIDS prevention programme for prison inmates. POCAL also educates women, drug addicts, students and the homeless on preventive methods.
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