Rome - Italy's Roman Catholic Sant'Egidio community on Thursday announced a wide-ranging four-year programme to prevent and fight Aids in Mozambique.
The programme, backed by French professor and Aids specialist Luc Montagnier, will be financed by the Italian government to the tune of $7-million euros (R42-million).
Mario Marazziti, speaking for Sant'Egidio, said the community enjoyed good relations with the authorities in Mozambique after its efforts to restore peace in the country and had decided to launch the programme to stem the development of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids) there.
Out of a population of about 18 million, 1.2 million people in Mozambique have the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, which leads to Aids. According to non-governmental organisations, some 14 percent of the 15-49 age group are HIV-positive, as are 20 percent of pregnant women there.
The programme will be aimed basically at preventing the spread of HIV from mother to child, but will also look into dealing with the infections that accompany Aids, according to Doctor Leonardo Emberti.
Aids has become the top killer in Africa, though it is fourth on the world scale. Emberti quoted a United Nations agency as saying that some 2,6 million people died of Aids in 1999, including 2,2 million in Africa.
By the end of the year there will be around 24 million people with HIV in Africa, with nine countries, all in southern Africa, seeing life expectancy dropping by 10 years to 48 simply because of Aids, the agency said.
Montagnier said that, for unknown reasons, the epidemic seemed to be spreading more quickly in southern Africa than to the north, where its spread was apparently slowing down.