CAMEROON: Government launches anti-HIV programme
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
YAOUNDE, 27 March (PLUSNEWS) - The government has unveiled a three-year programme against HIV/AIDS aimed at lowering the national prevalence rate of 11 percent.
"Our principal objective is to reverse the actual trend in the epidemic, reduce the prevalence rate to less than 10 percent, and reduce by at least 25 percent HIV's incidence rate among the youth, men and women by the year 2005," Health Minister Urbain Awono said at the programme launch on Friday.
Drawn up by the national committee against AIDS (Comite National De Lutte Contre Le Sida), the programme pays special attention to helping youth, who have been hardest hit by the epidemic in this central African country.
The committee says 600 people are infected in the country each day. At least 12 percent of those from 20 to 24 years old are HIV positive, while 10 percent of those from 25 to 29 years old are infected.
Emphasis will be placed on providing educational programmes that highlight all HIV-related issues: status testing, protection against the disease and the need to change risky sexual behaviour. The role sex plays in contracting the virus will be accentuated, as 90 percent of HIV infection occurs this way, the committee says.
The availability of antiretroviral drugs and other medicines will also be a focus of the programme as the government hopes to build upon efforts it began months ago with the acquisition of cheaper drugs.
In Cameroon, HIV-positive patients can now buy generic drugs for 22,000 CFA francs (about US $30), while the most expensive drug therapy has dropped from 375,000 francs to 68,000 francs (from US $506 to US $92). The authorities also plan to increase the availability of condoms, one way of reducing the chance of catching the virus.
Counselling and psychological support, a neglected element in caring for the infected and their families, constitutes the programme's third area of concentration. This effort will target the 1,5 million people who live with the virus, and their relatives.
Several international organisations and UN agencies such as WHO and UNAIDS, including the European Union (EU) and the French Cooperation Agency, have contributed to the government's 4,5-billion franc (US $6.1 million) onslaught against the disease.