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Two decades ago, virtually no one there was HIV-positive.
By 1992 an estimated 20 percent of sexually active adults were infected.
In the 1980s Australian demographer John Caldwell insisted that the virus was spreading rapidly in Africa simply because people there tended to have more sexual partners than people elsewhere.
He pointed to the cultural desire for many children, the tradition of polygamy, and other aspects of African society that contributed to a greater tolerance of promiscuous behavior than in the West.
The picture in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa is nearly as dire.
AIDS has killed Zulu nurses in South Africa, Masai teachers in Tanzania, Kikuyu housewives in Kenya, Pygmy elders in Uganda.
Botswana seems an unlikely place for an AIDS epidemic.
Recently, though, some experts, including epidemiologist James Chin of the University of California at Berkeley, have revisited the theory.But most Africans with HIV claim never to use drugs, engage in prostitution, or have large numbers of sexual partners.To explain the high infection rates, scientists have advanced theories ranging from nutritional deficiencies to more virulent HIV strains to different sexual customs.The growing disaster has forced AIDS experts to reconsider old theories about how HIV spreads in Africa.Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, many HIV-positive people are injecting drug users, prostitutes, and highly promiscuous homosexual men who may have hundreds of different sexual partners every year.
By 1995 that proportion had reached one-third, and today it is roughly 40 percent.