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DRC: DRC: Military, police to launch HIV/AIDS campaign

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

NAIROBI, 30 December (PLUSNEWS) - The military and police in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are to launch a countrywide HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

A meeting held on 3 December with the International Centre for Migration and Health (ICMH), over 100 senior military and police officers, as well as the DRC ministers of interior, defence and health, had ended with a consensus on priority actions to be taken by both the military and police at all levels, UNFPA reported on 20 December. These would include education programmes to disseminate HIV/AIDS messages, and condom-distribution programmes, studies and evaluations, and workshops.

Defence Minister Irung Awan told the meeting that AIDS had become "an occupational hazard for uniformed men and women around the world".

In the DRC, a number of factors were compounding the problem: the presence of foreign forces in the country; military camps which attracted commercial sex workers; and large numbers of soldiers posted away from their homes, their usual sex partners and the cultural norms of their communities. Rwandan and Ugandan forces, both of which had spent several years in the DRC, had a particularly high prevalence of HIV, UNFPA added.

According to UNAIDS, prevalence rates for sexually transmitted infections among armed forces were two to five times higher than among civilian populations, UNFPA reported. In times of war, this figure could skyrocket to 50 times higher than the rates for civilian populations.

"What is certain is that the four-year war, which involved armies from seven neighbouring countries and displaced at least two million people, has massively contributed to the spread of the HIV virus across the region," the agency reported.

Over the coming months, UNFPA and ICMH plan to work with the DRC government to expand the initiative to the farthest corners of the DRC, working with peacekeepers as well as military and police.



Recent DRC Reports
ARV distribution hindered by the war,  4/Mar/05
Help victims of sexual violence among expelled Congolese, OCHA says,  28/Apr/04
Government, University of North Carolina sign technical agreement,  14/Apr/04
US official in pledge for more aid to combat HIV/AIDS,  16/Mar/04
Focus on rampant rape, despite end of war,  8/Mar/04
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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