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Dramatic Change Needed to Halt AIDS, U.N. Says

June 23, 2002|From Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS -- A year after the 189-nation General Assembly adopted a plan to halt the AIDS epidemic, a U.N. report issued today said "dramatic changes" in sexual awareness and behavior are still needed in many poor countries to stop the advance of the killer disease.

The report examined data from 39 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and concluded that although campaigns have raised awareness of HIV and AIDS in many developing countries, they have not had a major impact on people's behavior--and their perception of risk.

The U.N. Population Fund said about 5,000 households were surveyed in each country, from the mid-to-late 1990s.

Even in countries where HIV rates are high, the report found that a large majority of men and women considered themselves at little or no risk of contracting AIDS.

"Also striking is the fact that in none of the countries surveyed did the level of education make a significant difference in the responses. This suggests that education has not been effective in making people aware of their own susceptibility to AIDS," the report said.

The study found that in some countries -- including Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Madagascar and Niger -- about half the women surveyed didn't know they could contract a disease through sexual contact.

Although AIDS campaigns have raised awareness in urban areas, the report said, "existing programs have done little, so far, to adequately inform the vast majority of couples who live in the rural areas of many African and Asian countries."

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