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More Awareness of HIV/AIDS to Help Fight Epidemic: Expert
More awareness of HIV/AIDS in the society through health education will help a lot in the fight against the epidemic, said an expert in AIDS research field on Friday.

"The first thing (in fight against HIV/AIDS) is to have more health education, because it is important to let people know the disease and its affection," Dr. Joshua Kimani, field director of the WHO Collaborative Center for STD/HIV Research in Kenya, told Xinhua in an interview.

"Do a lot of health education and that will empower people to know exactly how HIV is spread and how they can contact HIV. And through this education, people will accept to go to hospital for testing," said Kimani while referring to the measures that the African governments should take to control the further spread of AIDS.

"Then once you have so many people tested, it will help people to know what is going on, that is HIV will lead to people's death," which "will help in dealing with the social denial and culture of stigma" against HIV/AIDS and the infectors, said Kimani, who has been working in the field of fighting AIDS for more than 10 years.

According to the expert, social denial of HIV/AIDS and stigma against AIDS infectors are among the major causes for the high spreading rate of AIDS in Africa as people are afraid of telling others that they have been infected, which will result in social refusal.

In Kenya alone, Dr. Kimani said, more than 2.1 million people are HIV infected. "However, 90 percent of them are not aware of their HIV status," he stressed.

So far, more than one million people in the country have developed AIDS and died since the beginning of the epidemic in theeastern African country in mid 1980s.

Meanwhile, the expert also urged African governments to provide more money and take more concrete measures to deal with poverty, which, in his point of view, is another major cause of fast spread of AIDS in the continent.

"The African people are hard working people and the governments should be more transparent so that they could provide more money to deal poverty," which is always "linked with commercial sex."

Kimani stressed that sexual transmission, especially the so-called commercial sex, accounts for at least 75 percent of the infections.

"On the other level, we need to make sure that those people who have been tested positive have been later taken care of by the care and support systems, which are, maybe, funded by the governments," Kimani added.

"Also, the governments need to make sure the materials that these systems need are available and make sure that the (anti-AIDS) drugs are both available and accessible."

As for what individuals could do in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Dr. Kimani urged everybody to minimize the risk of HIV acquisition and protect "ourselves from acquiring or transmitting HIV."

"In the community level, we need to address the issue and give up the cultural denial things. W have accept HIV and we have to accept people living with HIV are human beings."

"Let's be open, let's encourage openness and let's deal with the culture of denial of HIV/AIDS," appealed Kimani.

According to the latest statistics released by the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Africa, which has only 10 percent of the world's resources, has 29.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS, accounting for 70 percent of the total 42 million infected in the whole world.

In sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS has so far killed 7 million people since 1995, the United Nations' top adviser on AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis said recently.

The disease, which has reduced life expectancy in Africa by up to 20 years, has overtaken armed conflicts as the number one killer in the region.

(Xinhua News Agency November 30, 2002)

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