IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 168, 13 February 2004
Friday 26 March 2004
Home About PlusNews Country Profiles News Briefs Special Reports Subscribe Archive IRINnews


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


Country Profiles
Conferences / Research
Job opportunities

News Briefs

ZAMBIA: Reduce TB cases with increased AIDS treatment - WHO
AFRICA: Circumcision may cut AIDS risk - study
MALAWI: Maize harvest ravaged by AIDS and drought
PlusNews E-mail Subscription

IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 168, 13 February 2004


SOUTH AFRICA: Community-based approach developed for orphan care
LESOTHO: New laws to strengthen HIV/AIDS action
GHANA: HIV infection rates rising in cities, survey shows
SOUTH AFRICA: TAC calls for stronger political leadership
LESOTHO: Mountain kingdom faces humanitarian calamity
LESOTHO: Testing times for rural households
SUDAN: First HIV/AIDS voluntary testing and counselling centre opens in Juba
EAST AFRICA: Firms ignoring threat of HIV/AIDS says study
GHANA: ECOWAS governments tackle HIV/AIDS in their armed forces
ETHIOPIA: IRIN interview with anti-FGM activist Berhane Ras-Work


1. How stuff works
2. Wola Nani
3. Sunbeam Kids



SOUTH AFRICA: Community-based approach developed for orphan care

An innovative pilot project by SOS Children's Villages Association of South Africa to provide community-based care for children orphaned by AIDS is underway in the rural community of QwaQwa, in Free State province.

"This pilot project represents a departure from our traditional, residential childcare model - an SOS Village," said Eugene Absolom, national director of the association.

"As communities' coping mechanisms are stretched with the growing number of orphans, this new approach will strengthen those mechanisms, supporting community-based solutions ... and children will remain in their community of origin," Absolom told PlusNews.

The pilot aims to ensure that long-term, family-based care is provided to orphaned and vulnerable children through four "family units", based on an innovative form of foster care known as the "community family model".

More details

LESOTHO: New laws to strengthen HIV/AIDS action

Two new laws, one currently going through the legislative pipeline and another enacted last year, are key to addressing the confluence of social problems that are contributing to Lesotho's humanitarian crisis.

"Because HIV/AIDS is undermining our social institutions and economy, it is crucial that the Sexual Offences Act be utilised now that it is law," Limakatso Chisepo, director of social welfare at the Ministry of Health, told PlusNews.

"The act is important because it thoroughly defines sexual violations. It contains revised definitions of rape, including within the marital situation," said Sakoane Sakoane, counsel for the Lesotho Law Reform Commission.

Before the act, women could not refuse sex with their husbands. They may do so today, and if the husband forces himself on his spouse, he is guilty of marital rape.

More details

GHANA: HIV infection rates rising in cities, survey shows

Ghanaian health experts began reviewing measures to control HIV/AIDS at a first-ever National Research Conference on Wednesday, following a new survey which showed that HIV prevalence rates were rising in the country's main cities.

Ghana's National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), which conducts Ghana's HIV/AIDS Sentinel Surveys, determined in 2002 that the HIV prevalence rate in Ghana was 3.4 percent, one of the lowest in West Africa.

However, the first results of the 2003 Sentinel Survey, disclosed on Wednesday, showed that HIV infection rates were on the rise, especially in big cities.

"Already six of our major cities - representing 27 percent of the monitoring sites - have registered prevalence rates above the five per cent referential point.

This means infections are increasing, and we should use research to find out why this is happening," Sakyi Amoa, Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, told PlusNews.

More details

SOUTH AFRICA: TAC calls for stronger political leadership

South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) expressed its concern on Wednesday over the delay in the government's rollout of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) — the core of the "Operational Plan for Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Care" released by the cabinet in November last year.

Estimates suggest that over 500,000 people are currently in need of ARVs, but only 1,500 people, all in the Western Cape Province, are on treatment at the moment.

What makes the Western Cape different from other provinces, according to TAC leader Zachie Achmat, is political leadership.

"The province has really good leadership ... they simply understand the need for a comprehensive approach that includes ARVs. And that is what they are doing ... they're not just saying it," Achmat told PlusNews.

More details

LESOTHO: Mountain kingdom faces humanitarian calamity

The tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho is suffering a calamity. Quietly, away from the glare of the international media, it is struggling to cope with a series of deep, interlinked crises that are testing the capacity of the government and the humanitarian community.

The most obvious challenge is the country's food crisis - more than a quarter of the 2.2 million population are in need of food aid. But poverty and AIDS make this emergency all the more complicated and severe, and recovery a long-term project rather than a problem solved by a single good harvest.

"We don't call it an emergency, we call it a humanitarian crisis, because what is happening is a convergence of factors. The food shortage is the most visible aspect, but AIDS - a major factor - is invisible. Poverty is less visible," explained Bertrand Desmoulins, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) country representative.

"My work is with children, and any one child's situation is unique. How did the child become vulnerable? We must take this approach to ask, 'How did Lesotho become vulnerable?'"

More details

LESOTHO: Testing times for rural households

The people of Lesotho are used to hardship, but yet another poor agricultural season as a result of drought is testing their resilience.

"Some are selling their cattle to better-off people in the community. This is painful for a family, which cherishes its livestock. It is a barter system: a sheep for a bag of maize. I see starvation in the future. People try to help one another, but I'm already seeing starvation," Chief Simon Mokorooane of Hachabeli in the Mohale's Hoek district in the southwest of the country told PlusNews.

Lesotho's chiefs are instrumental in providing population data to humanitarian organisations. Mokorooane said 117 families in his chiefdom were found without any food, and were put on the list of beneficiaries for food aid the World Food Programme (WFP) will deliver in his area this week.

"Last year was better. People were able to plant, and harvest. The crops lasted them six months. This year, the crops will last them three months - maybe. The situation looks dangerous this year," he said.

More details

SUDAN: First HIV/AIDS voluntary testing and counselling centre opens in Juba

Sudan's first free voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) centre for HIV/AIDS is being established in Juba, a southern garrison town.

The centre would be fully up and running by the end of March, with possible testing available before that, Simona Seravesi, the HIV/AIDS inter-agency focal point in Juba, told IRIN. Meanwhile, the centre is being equipped, and guidelines written for six local counsellors, all of whom will have to be trained.

The initial emphasis would be on prevention, she added, with an emphasis on researching high-risk groups around Juba, as well as customs and beliefs helping to spread the virus.

More details

EAST AFRICA: Firms ignoring threat of HIV/AIDS says study

Although HIV/AIDS is considered the most serious health and development issue in East Africa, the scourge is yet to become a major issue for leading businesses in the region.

Only a few firms have a formal HIV/AIDS policy, and just over half have HIV prevention programmes for their employees, a new survey conducted in four countries by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a leading audit consulting firm has found.

The 2003 survey, "HIV/AIDS: What is business doing?", examined the private sector's responses in the context of curbing the pandemic, based on interviews conducted between July and September last year with managers of 216 companies in various sectors in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia.

The findings showed that most companies had not attempted to establish the prevalence of HIV among their staff, while those prepared to hazard a guess tended to be overoptimistic about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among their staff.

More details

GHANA: ECOWAS governments tackle HIV/AIDS in their armed forces

Top military commanders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met in Ghana on Monday to draw up a detailed two-year action plan to tackle HIV/AIDS in their armed forces.

"Data on the absolute prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the armed forces is not very good right now for West Africa," Professor William Bertrand, an official of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) told PlusNews in an interview at the three-day meeting in Accra.

However, WAHO reckons the situation could well be similar to that in Southern Africa, where HIV prevalence rates in the military are between three to five times that of the general population.

Bertrand said West African soldiers were particularly at risk from HIV/AIDS because of their frequent participation in peacekeeping operations in the conflict-torn region.

More details

ETHIOPIA: IRIN interview with anti-FGM activist Berhane Ras-Work

Berhane Ras-Work, the president of the Inter-African Committee (IAC), has waged a 20-year war against harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation (FGM), to which millions of African women are subjected. In an interview with PlusNews in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 6 February, she challenged governments and the African Union (AU) to play a more vigorous role in the fight against FGM and towards helping to eradicate it by 2010.

QUESTION: How serious is the problem of female genital mutilation in Africa?

ANSWER: This problem is very serious. We estimate that 130 million women have been affected by this barbaric practice and every year two million girls are threatened by mutilation, so it is a very serious affair. We are talking about infibulation, we are talking about excision with all the cutting, the mutilation, the stitching that is involved. Also, there is the threat of HIV transmission.

Q: How does it affect women?

A: In many ways. During delivery of a baby there is pain and suffering, bleeding during the excision, infection, tearing. Even the first night of marriage is not a pleasure for many African women because of the cutting and stitching. So you can imagine – it is a life-long [agony] of pain and suffering.

More details


1. How stuff works

This site provides an easy-to-understand visual display using graphics and animation to illustrate how the HI virus attacks the immune system and how it causes AIDS.

2. Wola Nani

Wola Nani, Xhosa for "we embrace and develop one another", is a non-profit organisation formed in 1994 in Cape Town, South Africa, with the purpose of relieving communities hardest-hit by the HIV/AIDS crisis. Their efforts include a family and community support centre in the township of Khayelitsha, a drop-in centre in Cape Town, skills development and income generation projects, and education and awareness campaigns.

3. Sunbeam Kids

This is a temporary home for the smallest victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the children. The project, complete with an infant crisis centre, day care centre and a distribution centre for donations of children’s clothing, is situated in South Africa's Free State Province.



Recent AFRICA Reports

Interview with Hilda Tadria, regional gender advisor at,  26/Mar/04
Rights groups protest possible US threat to AIDS drug access,  26/Mar/04
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 174, 26 March 2004,  26/Mar/04
Interview with researcher Paul Harvey on humanitarian aid and HIV,  24/Mar/04
UN Volunteers funds NGO programme to sensitise Pygmies on HIV/AIDS,  23/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

[Back] [Home Page]

Click to send any feedback, comments or questions you have about IRIN's Website or if you prefer you can send an Email to

The material contained on this Web site comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post any item on this site, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All graphics and Images on this site may not be re-produced without the express permission of the original owner. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004