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ZIMBABWE: HIV/AIDS drop - behavioural change or skewed statistics?
October 10, 200

JOHANNESBURG - A recent national survey shows that Zimbabwe's HIV prevalence rate has dropped dramatically in the past two years, but the cause of this welcome change is not clear.

According to the study - carried out by UNAIDS, the US Centres for Disease Control and several universities - the percentage of Zimbabweans between the ages of 15 and 49 infected with HIV dropped from 24.6 percent to 20.1 percent in the last two years.

Health and Child Welfare Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa was quick to attribute the lower infection rates to behavioural change, saying that "everyone now seems to know the importance of preventing HIV and, to an extent, are trying their best to avoid getting infected", the Herald reported.

Lynde Francis, executive director of The Centre, an HIV/AIDS support organisation, was more cautious. The findings were "not a distortion of the figures - but there is a need for more accurate information," she told PlusNews.

The government's recent slum clearance campaign, which displaced some 700,000 people, and the "new way of [statistical] modelling" used by UNAIDS made the information in the new study difficult to compare with previous research, Francis warned.

Distinguishing between rural and urban areas, and between different age groups would improve the statistics, because "the survey does not account for mortality rates - the fact that people have died," Francis pointed out.

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