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AIDS ANALYSIS AFRICA. 1996 Feb; 6(1):1.Considerable data on AIDS in Malawi are available at the local level, but much of the information long languished instead of being formally collected and put together to provide an overall picture of the epidemic in the country. A World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist, however, has completed the first comprehensive, nationwide survey of HIV prevalence rates in Malawi. 1.6 million of Malawi's 11 million population are infected with HIV, making it one of countries in Africa worst affected by the epidemic. In 1995 alone, there were an estimated 265,000 new HIV cases and 74,900 deaths from AIDS. There are also fears about the safety of the blood supply. The WHO survey suggests that three of the country's 62 hospitals are not testing blood for HIV. Moreover, the effectiveness of the system is undermined by the widespread carelessness and dishonesty of overworked technicians who conduct the tests. While the reasons are many and complex for the spread of HIV, it seems that the policies of former President Hastings Kamuzu Banda were a contributory factor. President Banda's neglect of grassroots health care, especially in rural areas, and his refusal to allow public debate on the disease no doubt fueled the spread of HIV in Malawi. Traditional sex practices also probably play a role. For example, in some ethnic groups, young teenage girls are sexually initiated by men specially chosen for their physical prowess. Any one of these men who happens to be HIV-seropositive and has sex with many of these young girls may pass the virus on to many other people.