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An expert group has confirmed that unsafe sex is the cause of the vast majority of HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa.

Controversial research findings released last month suggested that unsafe medical practices — particularly the use of contaminated needles — are the main mode of HIV transmission in adults in Africa (see HIV transmission claims stir controversy). But conclusions of a group convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) contradict these results and back up previous estimates that unsafe injections account for only a small fraction of HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The experts concluded that [the researchers'] suggestions are not supported by the vast majority of evidence and that unsafe sexual practices continue to be responsible for the overwhelming majority of infections," says a statement by WHO and UNAIDS released on Friday (14 March).

Promoting safe sex to prevent the transmission of HIV should be the mainstay of the response to AIDS in the region, the statement says. But it also emphasises the importance of achieving safe and appropriate use of injections in all countries.

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Link to WHO/UNAIDS statement

Related external links:

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
World Health Organisation

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