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AIDS Scientists Meet in Brazil

I'm Faith Lapidus with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Scientists from more than one hundred countries met in Brazil last week for a conference of the International AIDS Society. Three days of meetings took place in Rio de Janeiro to discuss recent findings.

There was a lot of interest in a study of the relationship between male circumcision and H.I.V. H.I.V. is the virus that causes AIDS. The study supports the idea that removing the loose skin covering the tip of the penis might help protect men from the virus. The study took place in South Africa with French support.

Experts say H.I.V. rates in Africa and Southeast Asia are lower in populations where males are traditionally circumcised. But the United Nations AIDS program notes that cultural and social influences, not just biology, could play a part. It says more study is needed. Two American-supported studies are taking place in Uganda and Kenya.

AIDS is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. The body loses its defenses against deadly infections. Researchers say there were around five million new cases and three million deaths last year.

An estimated forty million people are infected with H.I.V. The virus is spread through bodily fluids. There is no cure, but medicines can slow the effects.

The U.N. AIDS program says Brazil is the first developing country to guarantee free treatment for H.I.V. The government supplies costly H.I.V. drugs as well as lower-cost versions made by public and private manufacturers. Experts say Brazil's efforts are helping AIDS patients to live longer. Brazil is also considered a leader in H.I.V. testing campaigns and research into a vaccine to prevent infection.

The infection rate in Brazil is estimated at seven-tenths of one percent of adults.

Southern Africa has the highest H.I.V. rates. Caribbean nations have the second highest. But East and Central Asia and Central Europe have had the biggest increases in the past ten years.

The U.N. AIDS program says only about fifteen percent of people in developing countries are on AIDS medicines.

Conference organizers praised Brazil as an example for developing countries. The World Bank expected Brazil to have one million two hundred thousand people with H.I.V. by the year two thousand. Yet, with aggressive prevention and treatment efforts, Brazil says it has only half that many cases.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. Our reports are on the Web at I'm Faith Lapidus.