About Half A Million
Rwandans Now Have AIDS

KIGALI (Reuters) - Around half a million Rwandans, or over six percent of the population, are infected with the HIV virus which causes AIDS, the country's health minister said on Tuesday.
"We are facing a silent and devastating epidemic which threatens national security," Ezechias Rwabuhihi told a conference attended by delegates from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.
The Central African country's population is estimated at between seven and eight million people.
Rwabuhihi said hospitals were so overcrowded that AIDS patients were often kept two to a bed.
"Our hospitals are overwhelmed, the staff is overwhelmed, some services of the internal medicine are overwhelmed," the minister said. "This is not a bearable situation."
On Sunday White House officials warned AIDS was so widespread in some countries that U.S. officials feared it could undermine economies, threaten foreign militaries and cause regional problems.
Official statistics supplied by the Rwanda's AIDS control agency showed 11.1 percent of Rwandans between the ages of 12 and 49 were infected with HIV, with numbers rising dramatically among sexually active adults.
Those most at risk are women aged between 25 and 29 of whom 21.5 percent have contracted HIV, compared to 13.9 percent of men in the same category.
Life expectancy in Rwanda is 42 years, 10 years less than in the early 1980s when the virus was first identified in the country.


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