IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 167, 6 February 2004
Thursday 22 April 2004
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IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 167, 6 February 2004


LESOTHO: Need to improve local anti-AIDS capacity
AFRICA: Focus on efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation
NIGERIA: Over 14,000 on subsidised AIDS drugs run out of medication
SWAZILAND: Army to introduce compulsory HIV testing


1. The Regional AIDS Training Network (RATN)
2. Soul Beat Africa
3. Strategies For Hope



LESOTHO: Need to improve local anti-AIDS capacity

A World Bank mission delving into Lesotho's humanitarian crisis was launched on Wednesday, with emphasis placed on building the capacity of local institutions to handle AIDS and help manage the country's drought-induced food shortages.

"There are a number of groups who want to work on HIV/AIDS, but fail because they cannot write compelling proposals, and who cannot yet be relied upon to see that results are reached," Julie McLaughlin, who co-heads the Bank's HIV/AIDS Capacity Building and Technical Assistance Project for Lesotho, told a meeting of stakeholders.

Thirty-one percent of adult Basotho are HIV-positive, according to official government figures. But the data is now two years old, and a senior Western diplomatic source told PlusNews that preliminary findings from a recent survey by the health ministry and UNAIDS indicated that currently 36 percent of the adult population was living with the virus.

Over the past five years, the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has awarded Lesotho US $29 million for AIDS-related programmes, and $5 million for tuberculosis prevention and mitigation efforts. This was grant financing, which required no repayment.

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AFRICA: Focus on efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation

Africa is aiming to eradicate harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2010, campaigners said on the eve on the International day for Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation, to be marked on Friday.

Speaking in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Tuesday, Berhane Ras-Work, the president of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (IAC), called for a continent-wide zero-tolerance approach to combat FGM.

"Children in Africa are being mutilated alive in the name of tradition," she asserted. "We should not remain indifferent just because these acts are defined as tradition."

African leaders have already come under pressure to outlaw the controversial practice. The wives of at least five African presidents have also thrown their weight behind the campaign to outlaw FGM. The first ladies, from Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Mali, Djibouti and Guinea, urged action to stamp out the practice, which affects some two million girls each year.

"Female genital mutilation is the most widespread and deadly of all violence victimising women and girls in Africa," Chantal Compaore, the First Lady of Burkina Faso, said recently.

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NIGERIA: Over 14,000 on subsidised AIDS drugs run out of medication

More than 14,000 people living with AIDS in Nigeria, who had been receiving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs subsidised by the government, are running out of supplies, an HIV/AIDS activist group said on Tuesday.

Nsikak Ekpe, president of AIDS Alliance Nigeria (AAN), an organisation which represents people living with AIDS in Africa's most populous country, said the government had stopped supplying drugs at almost all the 25 treatment centres selected for the programme across the country.

Those still lucky enough to be receiving medication were being issued with expired drugs, he told a news conference.

"By June 2003 some centres had stopped administering the drugs," Ekpe said, adding that over the past three months almost all had run out of ARV medicines.

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SWAZILAND: Army to introduce compulsory HIV testing

Swaziland's small national army, the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF), has confirmed plans to introduce a programme of compulsory HIV testing for its personnel.

"This is an information-gathering exercise, and not an exclusionary policy. No one will be fired because he or she is HIV-positive. We have to know how big the problem is," a high-ranking army official told PlusNews.

Colonel Gwalagwala Dlamini, the army's chief of personnel and chairman of its HIV/AIDS Task Committee, said in a recent statement that testing for the USDF's 3,500 soldiers and recruits would be compulsory, but would remain anonymous.

"All personnel will be tested, but test results will not bear the name of the person tested. At this point, we need to know what percentage of soldiers are HIV-positive. This is for planning purposes, to help our mitigation efforts," Dlamini said.

However, Dlamini added there was a voluntary component to the plan, which would allow soldiers to elect to receive their test results, and to undergo voluntary testing and counselling (VTC).

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1. The Regional AIDS Training Network (RATN)

RATN is a network of training institutions in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region. Established in 1997, RATN provides a forum for communication and sharing of experiences between training institutions. The network aims to improve the quality of HIV/AIDS training in the region, and to increase access to, and demand for, such training, in order to strengthen human capabilities to respond effectively to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

2. Soul Beat Africa

This is a web-based initiative focusing specifically on sharing information about using communication for change and development in Africa. It is a space to share experiences, materials, strategic thinking and events, and to engage in discussion and debate.

3. Strategies For Hope

This site aims to promote informed, positive thinking and practical action by all sections of society in dealing with HIV and AIDS. It also makes available a range of books and videos, and a training package designed to disseminate information about practical strategies of HIV/AIDS care, support and prevention in developing countries.


Recent AFRICA Reports

ARV rollout set to begin in Eastern Cape, 22/Apr/04
Food security through the lens of HIV/AIDS, 16/Apr/04
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 177, 16 April 2004, 16/Apr/04
Five NGOs to receive USAID grants for HIV/AIDS programmes, 14/Apr/04
HIV/AIDS threatens to undermine democracy, 9/Apr/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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