Over 20% South African
Teen Girls Now Have AIDS

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The rate of HIV infection has soared among South African teenage girls who are already most at risk from the deadly disease, health officials said on Tuesday.
A Cape Town health department survey showed the rate of increase in HIV infection among teenage girls had jumped by nearly two-thirds from 1997 to 1998. ``In the age group 15 to 19 years... 21 percent of them were HIV positive,'' city health director Ivan Thomas told a workshop on abuse of women and children. He said the 21 percent infection rate reflected a 65 percent increase from 1997.
Thomas blamed the steep rise on several myths, including one that if HIV-infected men had sex with a virgin they could rid themselves of the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
South Africa with a population of 40 million people has about four million people infected with HIV, and there are 1,700 new infections a day making it one of the countries with the highest infection rates in the world.
Within three years, about 250,000 South Africans are expected to die each year of AIDS related disease, with infant mortality expected to nearly treble by 2003. President Thabo Mbeki -- under pressure to supply the AIDS drug AZT to thousands of rape victims and HIV positive pregnant women in South Africa -- caused a furore in October when he cast doubt on the usefulness of the drug.
There was a renewed uproar last month with reports the government was setting up a committee of experts to not only examine the efficacy of AZT but the whole linkage between HIV and AIDS.


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