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Adult HIV infections rise to seven percent

An estimated seven percent of Uganda's adult population is living with HIV/AIDS, up from previous estimates of 6.2 percent, the ministry of health said on Tuesday.

In a report of preliminary findings of a national survey, the ministry indicated that approximately 800,000 people in the East African country were HIV-positive.

Ministry of health officials attributed the difference between the two HIV prevalence figures to the methods used to collect data. While this latest survey is based on a nationwide sample of people who voluntarily gave their blood to be tested for the virus, previous HIV/AIDS data was based on records from major hospitals and antenatal clinics.

To get more realistic statistics regarding the HIV/AIDS situation in the country for planning purposes, authorities last year launched the HIV/AIDS Sero-Behavioural Survey, funded by the US Agency for International Development, the Japanese government and the US Center for Disease Control.

The survey included interviews and blood samples from 18,000 men and women aged between 15 and 59, from different regions of the country and from rural and urban areas.

"Women are more likely to have HIV infection than men overall - 7.9 percent of women have HIV, compared to 6 percent of men," the report said.

"Adults living in urban areas are almost twice as likely to be infected with HIV as those in rural areas (10.7 percent versus 6.4 percent)," it added.

Ninety-nine percent of women and men had heard of HIV/AIDS and the vast majority know the major means of protection - abstinence, being faithful and using condoms, the ministry said.

Uganda has won accolades for its aggressive campaign against HIV/AIDS, managing to bring levels down from more than 20 percent in the 1980s, to its current seven percent.

The government has however, recently faced some criticism for a perceived policy shift in favour of the abstinence approach and away from the use of condoms in the fight against the HIV/AIDS.

Uganda has seen close to one million people die due to the pandemic, 78,000 of them in 2003 alone. More than 700,000 children have lost at least one parent to the disease, according to UNAIDS statistics.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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