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[NAIROBI] The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has issued a statement denying that it has overestimated the number of cases of HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

The move follows the release of preliminary figures from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey that suggest that 6.7 per cent of Kenyans have HIV — significantly less than the 9.4 per cent estimated by UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation.

The Kenyan figures, which were prepared by the country's ministry of planning and national development, are based on a survey of 9,000 households in which men and women were asked to undergo HIV tests. Kenyan figures have been acquired in the past using mostly antenatal reports and voluntary counselling and testing, but household surveys have rarely been used.

According to the Kenyan survey, 4.5 per cent of men have HIV — significantly lower than the UNAIDS estimate. By contrast, the survey found that 8.7 per cent of women have HIV, similar to the 9.4 per cent estimated by the UNAIDS and WHO.

UNAIDS says the male prevalence rate in the Kenyan study may have been biased because men were absent from the household or refused to participate. In total, 30 per cent of those asked to participate refused.

The Kenyan survey is "useful in helping to estimate the number of people living with HIV", but should be used in conjunction with other methods of estimating HIV prevalence such as antenatal surveys, according to UNAIDS.

"UNAIDS, WHO and its partners, including national AIDS programmes and research institutions, continue to work with countries and experts to improve data collection," it says. "These efforts will ensure that the best possible estimates are available to assist governments, NGOs and others in gauging the status of the epidemic and monitoring the effectiveness of their AIDS prevention and care efforts."

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