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Central African Nation Reports 319 Cases of AIDS

December 26, 1985

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ The small central African nation of Rwanda reported Thursday that 319 cases of AIDS, including 86 children, have been diagnosed there since 1983.

It was the latest, and by far the largest, in a series of disclosures by African countries of the presence of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the fatal disease in which a virus strips the body of its ability to fight off disease.

A telex to The Associated Press from Christophe Mfizi, director of Rwanda’s information office, said 106 of the AIDS victims had died. The 86 children who suffered from the disease were under the age of 15, he said. The cases were detected by a joint Rwandese-Belgian research project.

In the United States, which has the world’s highest reported number of AIDS victims at 15,000, the disease has occurred mostly among homosexual males. But in Rwanda, a landlocked country with 6 million people, research has shown that AIDS is a heterosexual disease and that children contracted it before birth through their mothers.

Suggestions that AIDS might have originated in Africa have prompted raucous debates in parliaments and a spate of government denials, drawing almost daily mention in newspaper stories, editorials and letters to editors.

The American Medical Association reported in the November issue of its journal that as many as 15 percent of healthy heterosexuals in central Africa may carry the AIDS virus. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health announced that they had discovered that African green monkeys carry a virus closely resembling the one believed to cause AIDS.

But other medical people contend that AIDS research is still incomplete and that no one can state conclusively where the disease originated.

In Kenya, Health Minister Peter Nyakiamo told parliament Nov. 21 that seven people have died of AIDS in the East Africa nation and that there were 14 suspected cases.

The World Health Organization in Geneva reported Dec. 20 that Kenya had upped the number of AIDS deaths to eight in a report received Dec. 17. It said five of those who died were Kenyans and the others were foreigners.

The semiofficial Times of Zambia reported Dec. 16 that at least two people have died from AIDS in the mining town of Ndola and that several additional cases have been discovered.

Dr. S.I. Okware, deputy director of Uganda’s medical services, reported Dec. 6 that a disease linked to AIDS has killed 11 people in Uganda and stricken 23 others.

The World Health Organization said that its report from Kenya was the first from a black African country formally acknowledging to the U.N. the presence of AIDS. South Africa has reported 21 cases of AIDS, according to WHO.

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