HIV infection rate in Eritrea worrying, UN says
ASMARA (AFP), Oct 16, 2004 - The AIDS
situation in Eritrea is worrying, but there are reasons to be hopeful,
UNAIDS has said. "The last figures show that the national HIV prevalence
rate is 2.4 percent," UNAIDS country programme adviser Dominique Mathiot
told AFP during an interview in Asmara.
"We are worried by this rate because above 1 percent means
the epidemic is generalized. The rate for pregnant women here is above 5
percent and in any country the HIV prevalence rate can within three years
increase from 2% to 12%," he insisted.
But currently, "there seems to be a stabilization of the
prevalence, thanks notably to the government's efforts."
"Free and anonymous AIDS screening has highly increased, and
we are doing prevention campaigns with the armed forces and the UN peacekeeping
soldiers," present in Eritrea, UNAIDS said.
Military service is compulsory in Eritrea.
"What makes me optimistic is that the government's commitment
is clear and precise, and that the work accomplished these last years can
continue," Mathiot added.
Limited cross-border mobility has also helped to control the
spread of HIV and AIDS. Eritrea's two main borders, with Ethiopia and Sudan,
are currently closed.
"The limited mobility helps control the epidemic's expansion.
Some regions of Ethiopia have prevalence rates which are five to six times
higher than the Eritrean one," Mathiot said.
But "the current isolation will not last forever". If
tourism in Eritrea develops, the epidemic could expand, he said.
Eritrea, a small country in the Horn of Africa, has a population
of nearly 4 million people, according to Asmara.