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UNAIDS Lays Out Scenarios From Dire to Hopeful for Africa

Africa will be coping with the AIDS epidemic for decades to come, but to what extent will depend on policies governments adopt now and support from the international community. A U.N. report lays out three possible scenarios over the next 20 years that range from dire to hopeful.

A UNAIDS report, released Friday, outlines three possible scenarios showing how the AIDS pandemic could develop in Africa, depending on government policies and resources.

"How AIDS in Africa will evolve over the next 20 years is very much dependent on the actions and the investments that we make now in responding to the epidemic," said UNAIDS spokesman Richard Delate.

In the worst-case scenario, the report concludes, African governments have inefficient AIDS policies and programs, and international aid is declining or inconsistent. As a result, an average of five percent of the continent's population would be HIV-positive in 2025.

In the middle scenario, one-third of HIV-positive people in Africa would receive anti-retroviral treatments, up from five percent currently. Prevention programs would be improved, so that 24 million people would be avoiding HIV infection.

In the best case situation, AIDS is viewed as what the report calls an exceptional crisis. Prevention and treatment programs would be expanded, with considerable international aid, and 70 percent of HIV-positive people would receive anti-retroviral treatments, sparing some 43 million people from HIV infection.

Mr. Delate said countries such as Uganda, Botswana and Kenya have come a long way in reducing HIV infection rates, and that an increasing number of Africans are gaining access to anti-retroviral treatment.

But, he says, much more needs to be done.

"The difficulty for us is to move from having policies and programs in place, to actually having coverage and services in place. We are still lagging far behind, both in terms of prevention and treatment," he explained.

Mr. Delate urged African governments to set up and implement national AIDS plans and policies, and international donors to support those efforts.