Abstract

Cases of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) have been reported in countries throughout the world. Initial surveillance studies in Central Africa suggest an annual incidence of AIDS of 550 to 1000 cases per million adults. The male to female ratio of cases is 1:1, with age- and sex-specific rates greater in females less than 30 years of age and greater in males over age 40. Clinically, AIDS in Africans is often characterized by a diarrhea-wasting syndrome, opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis, cryptococcosis, and cryptosporidiosis, or disseminated Kaposi's sarcoma. From 1 to 18% of healthy blood donors and pregnant women and as many as 27 to 88% of female prostitutes have antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The present annual incidence of infection is approximately 0.75% among the general population of Central and East Africa. The disease is transmitted predominantly by heterosexual activity, parenteral exposure to blood transfusions and unsterilized needles, and perinatally from infected mothers to their newborns, and will continue to spread rapidly where economic and cultural factors favor these modes of transmission. Prevention and control of HIV infection through educational programs and blood bank screening should be an immediate public health priority for all African countries.