- ABIDJAN, Dec 7 (Reuters) - AIDS is much more prevalent in parts of Africa
than anyone suspected and is a major block to development with traditional
scourges such as malaria and tuberculosis, the World Health Organisation's
(WHO) director said on Sunday.
- ``The signs are that the infection rate
has doubled in one year in African states,'' Hiroshi Nakajima told Reuters
in an interview before the opening of Africa's top conference on AIDS in
Ivory Coast's commercial capital later in the day.
- ``AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis continue
to be the three development-related diseases,'' he said.
- But Nakajima, who leaves office in July
1998 after 10 years, said there were signs that government AIDS prevention
programmes were starting to work.
- ``In Uganda the transmission rate is
decreasing, so there is a certain cause for hope,'' he said.
- Nakajima said WHO strategy needed to
be adjusted to help cope with AIDS and other diseases which continue to
strike at the economies of developing countries.
- Healthcare finance, access to services
and womens health would also be given more attention under a new approach.
- ``We will discuss that at board level
and there could be an agreement by May 1998,'' said Nakajima, adding that
few developing countries existed when WHO was set up in 1948.
- ``It will be different as it will have
more emphasis on a multi-disciplinary apporach,'' he added.
- The 10th International Conference on
Sexually Transmitted Disease and AIDS in Africa, which runs to December
11, takes as its theme AIDS and Development.
- Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
kills by destroying the body's immunity against disease.
- Africa accounts for two-thirds of the
30.6 million people in the world infected by the HIV virus which causes
- A UNAIDS project pilot study beginning
in 1998 in Ivory Coast, Uganda, Chile and Vietnam aims to cut drug prices
and make treatments more available.
- ``There is a real chance to cure mother
to child transmission,'' Nakajima told a meeting on using retroviral drugs
to prevent the onset of AIDS in Africans with HIV.
- ``In developed countries the introduction
of anti-retroviral drugs in tritherapy has led to a clear reduction of
the rates of death,'' he said.
- ``Their use has proved extremely efficient
in cutting the transmission to child by their mothers,'' he added, referring
to a therapy combining three drugs, including AZT.
- AIDS experts have recommended use of
the three drug combination therapy for adults and children whenever possible,
pending final results of tests in Africa and elsewhere.
- ``These treatments are extremely expensive,''
said Nakajima. ``Our principle duty is to reinforce cooperation with developing
- Nakajima said that even if Africa had
free access to the drugs they would have to be administered very carefully
to other avoid drug resistance -- a problem that has complicated the treatment
- ``There is a risk of bringing about resistant
strains (of HIV),'' he said, adding that patients often failed to complete
courses of treatment.