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AIDS sharply cuts life expectancy in Mozambique
  By Mateus Chale
MAPUTO (Reuters) - AIDS has sharply reduced life expectancy in Mozambique and threatens to derail the government's reconstruction efforts after years of civil war, Health Ministry officials said on Friday.
Life expectancy at birth this year was estimated at 38.1 years, compared with 46.4 if AIDS was absent, and could fall further to 35.9 years by 2010, the Health Ministry said in a report.
"These are figures ... that remind us of how serious we should face this fight," Minister Francisco Songane told reporters after his ministry published the statistics.
"We need to act to reduce the speed of the growth of HIV/AIDS, which is a huge development challenge," Songane said, adding AIDS threatened reconstruction efforts launched after the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) signed a peace pact in 1992, ending a 16-year civil war.
The Health Ministry report called for called for "immediate and effective" action to combat AIDS in a country where 1.4 million of the country's 18 million people live with AIDS.
It showed that prevalence of HIV jumped to 14.9% in the key 15-to 49-year-old sexually active age group from 13.6% in 2002.
It was projected to reach 16.8% in five years and would probably stabilise around those levels, the report said.
Urban centres such as the port city of Beira were badly affected while remote rural districts were still virtually untouched by the disease, Health Ministry officials said -- pointing to a prevalence rate of 35% in Beira compared with 8.0% in northern districts near the Tanzania border.
Despite the worsening problem, Mozambique is one of the few southern African countries where prevalence is below 15%, activists say. In Zambia and Zimbabwe one in every five adults carries HIV or has AIDS, while prevalence in both Swaziland and Botswana is near 40%.
Songane said up to 8,000 of the 218,000 people with AIDS could benefit from the government's programme of free antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and the number would be raised to 58,000 in 2006 and 132,000 in 2008.
Brazil has agreed to help Mozambique construct a company to manufacture cheap ARVs in its enhanced fight against AIDS. Government officials say the possibility of South Africa and Zambia would also produce ARVs may help significantly cut the prices of drugs critical in AIDS management.


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