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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | SIERRA LEONE: UN peacekeepers equipped to prevent HIV/AIDS | Prevention Research | News Items
Tuesday 27 December 2005
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SIERRA LEONE: UN peacekeepers equipped to prevent HIV/AIDS

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


UN peacekeepers will be equipped with knowledge about HIV/AIDS

JOHANNESBURG, 13 March (PLUSNEWS) - UN peacekeepers in Sierra Leone will soon be equipped with knowledge and skills to prevent HIV/AIDS under a recently-launched initiative designed to curb the growing spread of the epidemic in the military.

The first step of the project will be to determine what peacekeepers know about HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections and the role they can play in community outreach. They will be trained in HIV/AIDS prevention, gender awareness and women's rights. Training materials for peacekeepers will be developed to help them educate their peers and host communities.

With over 15,000 troops, more than 250 military observers and around 50 civilians, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), is currently the largest peacekeeping operation in the world, a statement said.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, said UNAMSIL was proud to be the first UN peacekeeping operation where this joint programme for peacekeepers to receive updated training in HIV prevention and gender awareness was being launched.

"Peacekeepers are uniquely positioned to educate communities and prevent HIV infection," he said in a statement. "Armed with knowledge and skills, they can fight the war against HIV/AIDS and reverse the tide of infection."

The programme will be coordinated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA representative in Sierra Leone, Mamadou Diallo, said: "UNAMSIL peacekeepers have done a great deal to uphold peace and security in Sierra Leone.

"Now they will do even more as they continue the fight against HIV/AIDS. We can beat the HIV/AIDS epidemic if we spread information and knowledge faster than the virus."

Although the country has a relatively "low" HIV prevalence rate, all the ingredients are there: a decade-long war seriously disrupted all sectors of the country and society, rape and sexual exploitation were widespread.

About two thirds of the population was forced to leave their homes and many fled to neighbouring countries, while others remained as internally displaced persons with few resources at their disposal. Today, thousands of girls who lost their families and were abused have been forced to turn to commercial sex work to survive, the statement added.

This new project in Sierra Leone is designed to support national efforts to help the recovering country avoid a full-blown HIV/AIDS epidemic.


Recent SIERRA LEONE Reports
First post-war countrywide survey shows 1.5 percent HIV prevalence,  20/Dec/05
New survey expected to show much higher HIV prevalence rate,  17/Feb/05
300 people to receive free antiretroviral drugs,  20/Jan/05
Efforts to break down HIV/AIDS stigma starting to pay off,  9/Dec/04
World Bank loan for reconstruction and HIV/AIDS,  28/Mar/02

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