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Kenya Says HIV/AIDS Rate Drops to 5.9 Percent

The Kenyan governmment said Tuesday the rate of HIV/AIDS infections had dropped 5.9 percent, but the disease still posed a a major challenge in the country.

The state-run National Aids Control Council (NACC) said the rate fell from 6.1 percent in 2004 to the current 5.9 percent of the country's nearly 35 million people.

"Of notable significance is the decline in new infections from 85,000 in 2004 to 60,000 in 2005 as well as the drop in HIV prevalence from 6.1 percent to 5.9 percent in the same period," said NACC chairwoman Miriam Were.

Were emphasized that change of sexual habits and use of condoms had played a large part in slashing new infections.

The country aims to reduce the rate of infections to 5.5 by 2010.

Officials said awareness campaigns have succeeded in reducing Kenya's HIV/AIDS prevalence rate from 10 percent in the late 1990s, with condom use rising and a decline in the average number of sexual partners.

At least 1.3 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, 65 percent of whom are women between the ages of 19 and 45, according NACC statistics.

Last year, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki announced that public hospitals would no longer charge HIV/AIDS patients for life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs in a new bid to fight the deadly disease.

Since 1984, at least 1.5 million people are said to have died from AIDS in Kenya, according to health ministry estimates.


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