Zimbabwe unveiled its first nationally produced HIV/AIDS report Thursday. The study for the year 2002 shows a significant drop in the number of people previously though to be HIV positive in the country.
The results of the study show that 1.8 million Zimbabweans aged between 15 and 49 are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The figure is significantly less than that estimated by the United Nations in its Global AIDS Report for the year 2001, in which it reported that more than two million out of Zimbabwe's population of 11.6 million were infected.
More than 50 percent of those infected are women and children.
The latest estimates are based on a much more accurate study conducted by the government in collaboration with international organizations, including the U.S. Center for Disease Control's Zimbabwe program, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization and the Imperial College, London.
They used the Epidemic Projection Package software which has been used to calculate HIV prevalence by UNAIDS and the WHO.
UNAIDS estimates that after South Africa and Botswana, Zimbabwe has one of the highest prevalence rates of the disease in the world. Two-thousand Zimbabweans die of AIDS-related illnesses every week. Speaking at the launch of the report, Minister of Health David Parirenyatwa said the estimates were based primarily on surveillance data carried out on pregnant women between the ages of 15 and 49 attending pregnancy clinics.
Mr. Parirenyatwa said the drop was the result of increased awareness about HIV/AIDS among Zimbabweans. He attributed this to the efforts of various groups in Zimbabwe engaged in HIV/AIDS awareness.
"Society in Zimbabwe, including our international partners, should take credit for this sterling effort in this country," he said.
However, the report also cautions that although the estimates suggest a decline in HIV prevalence, additional years of data are required to determine whether this is, indeed, the case.