Africa on forefront of war against HIV

HOME to 22,5 million people with HIV - nearly 70 percent of the world's total - sub-Saharan Africa bears the brunt of the 30-year-old Aids pandemic

Millions of lives have been destroyed, yet the war now shows signs of progress: infection rates are stabilising or dropping in many countries as access to life-saving drugs widens.

But the challenges are huge.

From Kampala to Mbabane, the following are short reports on the key issues.

  • Microphone in hand, the receptionist calls over the public address system to the next person waiting to grasp a lifeline: the precious drugs that will keep the Aids virus at bay.

The Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, located in the working-class suburb of Yaba, is often overwhelmed by the numbers.

The drugs are free, as in many African countries, but just 360000 people receive treatment - out of 3,1million Nigerians who need it.

  • After six years of campaigning about safe sex in a Kampala suburb, Kenneth Mukwaya worries Ugandans are suffering from Aids fatigue.

Uganda has been hailed as one of Africa's successes in the fight against Aids, with infections slashed from 18percent in 1992 to 6,1percent in 2002.

  • The first question the raped women ask is: "Am I HIV positive?" "For those who have been raped and infected with Aids, it is catastrophic, it's very, very traumatic," said Nene Rukunghu, a doctor at the Panzi Hospital in the conflict-ridden eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

In DR Congo, more than 1100 women are raped every day according to one study, with marauding gangs of militia and soldiers sweeping through villages in cold-blooded attacks.

  • The letters on the hand-written posters are stuck to a bedroom wall in Cape Town's shack-filled outskirts: "I am not just a number... I am strong".

They were penned by one of South Africa's nearly two million Aids orphans, "Sandile", a skinny, HIV-positive 10-year-old whose mother died when he was just nine months old.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to one in nine of the world's 16,6 million children who have lost one or both parents to Aids.

  • Mfanzile Nxumalo averts his eyes and screws up his face while his foreskin is sliced off, but he declares his mettle as the nurse stitches him up. He's joining in a push by Swaziland to curb HIV with male circumcisions.

After trials suggested circumcision could reduce HIV infection risk to men by up to two-thirds, Swaziland decided to revive a tradition that had been abandoned in the 19th century.

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