IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 164, 16 January 2004
Saturday 13 March 2004


East Africa
Great Lakes
Horn of Africa
Southern Africa
·South Africa
West Africa


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Conferences / Research
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News Briefs

ZAMBIA: Stronger anti-AIDS focus on women - First Lady
UGANDA: AIDS drug roadblock as hundreds die daily
DJIBOUTI: AIDS drug rollout kicks off
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IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 164, 16 January 2004


NIGERIA: Stock of subsidised drugs for AIDS runs out
ETHIOPIA: Traditional burial societies to help people living with HIV/AIDS
ETHIOPIA: Interview with director of HIV/AIDS film "Hidden Tears"
SOUTHERN AFRICA: Are countries spending enough on AIDS?
SWAZILAND: AIDS and economic decline hamper school enrolments
KENYA: Confusion over HIV prevalence rates


1. Africa Action
2. Binti Pamoja Centre
3. Global Media Initiative



NIGERIA: Stock of subsidised drugs for AIDS runs out

A Nigerian government programme to provide antiretroviral treatment at subsidised prices for people living with HIV/AIDS is under threat because the initial stock of drugs is running out and has not been replenished, officials said.

The programme was launched in January 2002 by President Olusegun Obasanjo, with the aim of providing more affordable antiretroviral treatment to 10,000 people at 25 designated centres across the country.

The government charged just over US $7 per month for the treatment, which can improve the health of people living with AIDS and extend their lives, but cannot cure them. It costs about $300 per month at commercial prices.

The uptake was very slow at first, but Health Ministry officials told PlusNews on Wednesday that it had improved as awareness of the programme grew.

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ETHIOPIA: Traditional burial societies to help people living with HIV/AIDS

Ethiopia’s traditional community-based burial societies - idirs - are now turning their attention to helping people living with HIV, officials said on Tuesday.

"This change of mandate is very fundamental," Dr Eyob Kamil, head of Addis Ababa’s Health Bureau, told PlusNews at the launch of a training programme for idirs. "It’s mobilising community support and giving skills to provide care to everyone. This is community empowerment."

Idirs are community groups to which people pay subscriptions towards meeting funeral and mourning costs. They have a very long reach among communities and are found in almost all parts of the country. Members of these burial societies are currently being trained for HIV/AIDS-related work in Addis Ababa.

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ETHIOPIA: Interview with director of HIV/AIDS film "Hidden Tears"

Ethiopia’s fledgling film industry is turning its attention to fighting the HI virus. The documentary film-maker, Kidane Yilak, tells PlusNews why he felt compelled to make the country’s first-ever film addressing the stigma and discrimination prompted by the virus, and the threat posed by HIV/AIDS, which has infected an estimated 2.2 million people in Ethiopia.

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SOUTHERN AFRICA: Are countries spending enough on HIV/AIDS?

The impact of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa is now well recognised, but the critical question is whether enough funding has been allocated to deal with the epidemic, a report by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) said.

In April 2001 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, African leaders committed themselves to allocating at least 15 percent of government expenditure to the health sector. But except for Zimbabwe and South Africa, none of the other Southern African countries surveyed in the report - Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland - had fulfilled this promise. Analysts have questioned the accuracy of the Zimbabwe figures.

"Botswana comes closest among the remaining countries, spending 10 percent of government expenditure on health. The other countries spend about half of the 15 percent target," the study noted.

Although it was likely that Botswana and Swaziland would meet their obligation, the "constrained macroeconomic environment" in Mozambique and Lesotho made reaching the 15 percent threshold less likely.

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SWAZILAND: AIDS and economic decline hamper school enrolments

With schools reopening nationwide this week, teachers in Swaziland are concerned that a weakening economy and HIV/AIDS will affect the number of children enrolling for the 2004 academic year.

"The problem is school fees - and it's not a new one. Parents scramble to come up with money for tuition, school uniforms, transportation, boarding and other fees. What is measurably worse this year is the number of parents who are out of work, and the growing population of children without parents," Alexander Tsabedze, a headmaster in the northern Hhohho region, told IRIN.

The impact of HIV/AIDS on poor households is compounding an already difficult situation.

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KENYA: Confusion over HIV prevalence rates

Findings from a government survey released last week showed that Kenya may have a lower HIV prevalence rate than was previously thought, but activists warned the situation on the ground had not changed.

The preliminary report of the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey found there were fewer people living with HIV/AIDS than projected - 6.7 percent compared to the 9.4 percent estimated by UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation for 2003. Up to 3,000 households were tested for HIV in the study, which is used to plan government health policies.

In a statement on Tuesday, UNAIDS described last week's news reports claiming that their figures were "overestimated", as unfounded.

"When broken down by gender, the survey found an HIV prevalence of 8.7 percent among women, which is in the same range as the 9.4 percent prevalence estimated by UNAIDS and WHO," UNAIDS said in the statement.

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1. Africa Action launched its new website this week. It offers major new features and original content on US Africa policy and the Africa's Right to Health Campaign. There are resources and policy analysis on a range of key issues and countries; activist tools on Africa's HIV/AIDS crisis; and a newsroom with Africa Action's latest media activities and archived press releases and reports.

Africa Action is working with activists across the US to put pressure on President Bush to keep the promise made in last year's State of the Union address to give US $15 billion to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. A set of talking-points on Bush's AIDS policies, entitled "Broken Promises and Betrayals," is also on the new website.

2. The Binti Pamoja (Daughters United) Centre is designed to create a safe space where girls and young women can discuss reproductive health issues, and fight gender discrimination, domestic abuse and rape. The centre uses art and photography as a means of expression and to enable young participants to speak out on difficult issues. Discussion topics have included violence against women, sex, contraception, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and ethnic conflict. To further discussion, field trips to NGOs addressing some of these issues have been organised. To complement the discussions, members were given disposable cameras and assignments that paralleled the topics. The Centre is also spearheading the establishment of an AIDS awareness Peer Educators programme.

3. An archived version of a live web cast of this week's press conference with media leaders and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to launch the Global Media AIDS Initiative is available online. The Initiative aims to activate media organisations to reach the world's people - especially youth - with information about how to prevent and treat HIV, and to help combat AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.



Recent AFRICA Reports

IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 172, 12 March 2004,  12/Mar/04
Global Fund calls for bold proposals,  5/Mar/04
PlusNews Web Special - Gender and HIV/AIDS,  5/Mar/04
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 171, 5 March 2004,  5/Mar/04
Anti-HIV programme fails rape victims,  4/Mar/04


PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:


  • IRIN

  • Inter Press Service (IPS)



  • Health Systems Trust

  • Health & Development

  • GTZ/Afronets

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