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South Africa: More HIV Than Thought

March 20, 2001

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ South Africa, which already has the world’s largest population of HIV-positive people, said Tuesday the numbers were even higher than previously thought, with one in nine infected.

A government study conducted at 400 clinics nationwide concluded that about 4.7 million South Africans were HIV-positive as of the end of 2000. Previous government estimates had put the figure at 4.2 million, or one in 10.

About 24.5 percent of women attending public postnatal clinics were infected, up from 22.4 percent in 1999, the study found.

The findings, released by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, are considered one of the country’s most accurate measures of the incidence of HIV and AIDS.

Most HIV-positive South Africans cannot afford the drugs that could prolong their lives. Last week, President Thabo Mbeki rejected calls to declare a state of emergency to allow the nation to import cheaper generic drugs to deal with its AIDS crisis.

Declaring a state of emergency would allow South Africa to produce the generic drugs without breaking World Trade Organization rules on bypassing patent laws.

Mbeki told parliament a state of emergency was not needed because South Africa has its own law permitting both importation and production of generic drugs _ although implementation has been stalled by a lawsuit brought by major drug companies.

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