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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | MADAGASCAR: Island nation steps up HIV/AIDS efforts | Prevention Research | News Items
Sunday 25 December 2005
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MADAGASCAR: Island nation steps up HIV/AIDS efforts

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


The island is waking up to HIV/AIDS

JOHANNESBURG, 9 April (PLUSNEWS) - A special body spearheaded by the president has been created to step up Madagascar's HIV/AIDS prevention programme.

Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana, who is leading the initiative, will oversee a technical committee to implement the country's HIV/AIDS campaign.

Although HIV prevalence in Madagascar is less than 1 percent, without intervention it is only a matter of time before the country sees an increase in HIV/AIDS cases, health officials have warned.

"This is a positive step. The government is treating HIV/AIDS as a matter of urgency - in spite of the low figures - and if the president is taking things into his own hands, we might curb the spread [of HIV/AIDS] before it is too late," UNAIDS programme officer, Teana Malala, told PlusNews.

The country's national HIV/AIDS strategy has yet to be finalised, but will focus largely on prevention campaigns, Malala said.

However, breaking the silence surrounding the disease will not be easy, she admitted, as many people were still in denial. "People are still afraid to say they are HIV-positive and there is still a lot of stigma we must overcome," she said.

Most of the urban population are aware of HIV/AIDS, but needed more education on how to protect themselves against the disease. Condoms were still not easily and freely available, Malala noted.

Moreover, the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on the island was very high, possibly leading to a rise in HIV infections, she warned.

Madagascar, however, was making some progress. An NGO recently received more than US $1.5 million from the Global AIDS Fund to combat HIV/AIDS and STIs in Madagascar. The World Bank is also funding a multi-sectoral HIV/AIDS prevention project in the country, Malala said.

"Everyone agrees that the low prevalence rates are not giving us the whole picture, we need to conduct more research and get more accurate statistics. We cannot afford to be complacent about HIV/AIDS," Malala warned.


Recent MADAGASCAR Reports
World Bank releases $239 million for development projects,  13/Jul/05
Youth clinics raise HIV/AIDS awareness,  9/Sep/04
Island nation gets Global Fund assistance,  17/Feb/03

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