IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 172, 12 March 2004
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IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 172, 12 March 2004


BOTSWANA: Gaps remain in AIDS knowledge
DJIBOUTI: Free ARVs distributed for the first time
BOTSWANA: Interview with Dr Ndwapi Ndwapi, director of Princess Marina Hospital's ARV programme
NAMIBIA: UN agencies launch emergency appeal
ZIMBABWE: Ambitious plans to roll out ARVs
LESOTHO: Anti-AIDS programme working with the youth
ZIMBABWE: Fresh TV show gives youth voice and advice
RWANDA: 45 to take part in HIV/AIDS vaccine trials
ETHIOPIA: Focus on local manufacture of antiretroviral drugs
LESOTHO: HIV/AIDS testing facilities still to be set up
SOMALIA: Campaign against FGM launched on Women's Day
SOUTHERN AFRICA: PlusNews Web Special on International Women's Day - Gender and HIV/AIDS


1. The J.F. Kapnek Charitable Trust
2. Kubatana Trust of Zimbabwe
3. Planet Poz



BOTSWANA: Gaps remain in AIDS knowledge

A survey of listeners to Botswana's popular HIV/AIDS radio drama, "Makgabaneng", has revealed a lack of specific knowledge about the virus in a country with the world's highest level of HIV infection.

Only 55 percent of respondents rejected the myths that mosquitoes can spread HIV, sex with a virgin can cure AIDS, and healthy looking people cannot have the virus.

Over half the male respondents and about three-quarters of the women aged between 15 and 24 said they would let their children play with HIV-positive friends, but the majority said they would not buy food from people living with the virus.

"I guess people think that the food may be contaminated and they may get it [HIV], but HIV cannot be spread in this way," said Todd Koppenhaver, technical consultant for the show.

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DJIBOUTI: Free ARVs distributed for the first time

Some 40 HIV-positive people on Tuesday began to receive free antiretrovirals (ARVs) after Health Minister Muhammad Ali Kamil launched Djibouti's first distribution of ARV medication at Peltier Hospital, the country's main medical centre.

Medical staff at the hospital told PlusNews that the treatment was started through a donor-funded programme called Global Care for People Living with AIDS (Prise en charge globale des personnes vivant avec le SIDA).

In addition to contributions from numerous donor countries and UN agencies - UNAIDS in particular - the IMF provided the Djibouti government with US $12 million in support of the initiative.

According to Kamil, one in 20 youths in Djibouti is HIV-positive. "While not mandatory, out of those who have chosen to be tested, at least 8,000 people have been found to be HIV-positive, while an estimated 10,000 others are HIV-positive and do not know it," he said at the launch.

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BOTSWANA: Interview with Dr Ndwapi Ndwapi, director of Princess Marina Hospital's ARV programme

Dr Ndwapi Ndwapi is the director of the Infectious Disease Care Clinic Antiretroviral (ARV) Programme at the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, Botswana.

He discusses the challenges facing the government's ARV rollout, the role of technology transfer in the procurement of drugs, and the problems faced in "internalising" ARV therapy in the national health care system.

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NAMIBIA: UN agencies launch emergency appeal

The United Nations will need US $5.8 million to help over 600,000 Namibian orphans, vulnerable children and women suffering the combined effects of erratic weather, severe poverty and a worsening HIV/AIDS epidemic.

On Wednesday the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN's Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched an emergency appeal, noting that "tens of thousands of children and their families will face severe difficulties in the coming months, unless international assistance is forthcoming".

WFP regional director for Southern Africa, Mike Sackett, said: "A swift response is needed to contain the crisis and give the government time to build up its capacity during this acute emergency."

According to official figures, more than 640,000 people are in need of food assistance.

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ZIMBABWE: Ambitious plans to roll out ARVs

Zimbabwe plans to roll out antiretroviral (ARV) treatment this month at five pilot centres across the country, and expects to have 260,000 of an estimated 520,000 HIV-positive people on the programme by the end of next year.

Given the country's current health crisis the task appears formidable, but health officials are optimistic, despite overwhelming obstacles, particularly the acute shortage of foreign currency.

The ministry of health said the government's rollout programme would benefit from the experience gained by local NGOs, faith-based organisations and the private sector, all of whom have already implemented drug distribution, albeit to a limited number of people. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is also providing technical support and has encouraged the development of tools for delivering the ARVs.

The authorities point to existing laboratories at most hospitals, a strong medicines regulatory authority and the availability of cheaper generic drugs as positive signs for success of the programme.

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LESOTHO: Anti-AIDS programme working with the youth

Mamokete Lemphane is used to being driven out of homes, insulted and abused - all in the cause of fighting HIV/AIDS in the northeastern Mokhotlong district of Lesotho.

"When I used to visit houses in the villages and start talking about HIV/AIDS, people often pushed me out of their homes and abused me. Now I know better - I start by talking about general good health tips," a giggling Lemphane explained.

The 22-year-old is a member of the Mokhotlong Youth Network, which seeks to spread awareness of the disease among villagers.

Lemphane helps to man the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)'s youth centre, opened under the auspices of the UN's Southern African Youth (SAY) projects on AIDS in the town of Mokhtolong. The centre operates out of a container, which houses computers and educational games.

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ZIMBABWE: Fresh TV show gives youth voice and advise

"Who's Next?" is the provocative title of an award-winning TV talk show aimed at promoting safer sex and sexual health among Zimbabwe's urban youth. It stands out from the field of anaemic talk shows as a bold and refreshing approach to get young people discussing the issues.

"'Who's Next?' basically centres around issues that affect young people generally and personally, including peer pressure, counselling, HIV and the issue of communication between parents and young people," explained Priscilla Mujuru, programme officer for Adolescent Reproductive Health at UNAIDS, which funds the show through the National AIDS Council.

Launched three years ago, the programme now has 700,000 loyal viewers each week, eclipsing by far other youth-orientated shows, according to Susan Makore, head of programming at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

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RWANDA: 45 to take part in HIV/AIDS vaccine trials

Some 45 Rwandan volunteers are to take part in tests for a new HIV/AIDS vaccine, the minister of state for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in the Ministry of Health, Innocent Nyaruhirira, said on Wednesday.

The 10-month long trials, conducted by a US-based San Francisco project in conjunction with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, are due to begin before the end of March in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, he said.

Rwanda has an HIV infection rate estimated at 13 percent in urban areas and 5 percent in rural areas. Nyaruhirira said between 10 percent and 13 percent of Rwanda’s 8.1 million people were HIV positive.

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ETHIOPIA: Focus on local manufacture of anti-retroviral drugs

Pharmacist Sudhir Sathe stands by an idle production line. By now, he says, desperately needed antiretrovirals (ARVs) for 70,000 AIDS patients a month could be rolling off the gleaming conveyor belt.

Bethlehem Pharmaceuticals – one of only two factories in Ethiopia licensed to produce the potentially life-saving ARVs – blames the static situation on international funding delays. "We do not need to state the urgency of getting these drugs out," said 51-year-old Sathe, who has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 27 years. "We are frustrated."

The Bethlehem Pharmaceuticals factory, sited in the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa, was awarded a licence to start producing the drugs in early August. The other factory so licensed is in northern Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has 2 million people living with HIV. The virus has orphaned some 1 million children. Experts estimate that the virus kills around 600 people a day, while two-thirds of all deaths in Addis Ababa of people aged between 20 and 54 are AIDS-related.

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LESOTHO: HIV/AIDS testing facilities still to be set up

Lesotho launched universal HIV/AIDS testing for its citizens at the weekend, but the first of three centres providing free testing will only be operational by the end of April.

Motloheloa Phooko, the minister of health and social welfare, told PlusNews that in the meantime eight Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) clinics were being used to provide free testing services. The PMTCT centres are located in four of the country's 10 districts.

The Lesotho government also aims to draw up a cost-effective plan by June to provide cheaper antiretrovirals (ARVs) to its population, a senior government official said.

About 300,000 Basotho are infected with HIV, of which an estimated 28,000 have CD4 counts (which measure the strength of the body's immune system) under 200, qualifying them for treatment, Phooko said. The government hopes to be able to provide them with ARVs by 2005.

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SOMALIA: Campaign against FGM launched on Women's Day

On the occasion of International Women's Day, a campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been launched throughout Somalia, where an estimated 98 percent of all women have undergone the ritual.

The campaign is being led by four networks of Somali women's organisations, namely the Coalition of Grassroots Women's Organization (COGWO), IIDA Women's Development Organization (IIDA means celebrate in Somali), We Are Women Activists (WAWA) and NAGAAD (roughly translated in Somali as 'Stay Rooted'). The networks represent nearly 90 grass-roots women's groups, Maryan Abdulle Qawane of COGWO told IRIN.

The campaign was launched simultaneously on Monday in Hargeysa, the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, Bosaso, the commercial capital of the self-styled autonomous region of Puntland, and in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, as well as in other towns.

The launches were marked by popular events such as rallies, demonstrations and drama performances, said Maryan, who is also the national coordinator of the Campaign Against Violence Against Women.

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SOUTHERN AFRICA: PlusNews Web Special on International Women's Day - Gender and HIV/AIDS

PlusNews, IRIN's HIV/AIDS news service, launched a new Web Special on 8 March to mark International Women's Day 2004.

A series of features from Angola, Swaziland and Zambia examines the connection between gender and HIV/AIDS. The Web Special also links to a campaign by the UN's Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Support Office for the Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, which explores the region's humanitarian crisis "Through the Eyes of Women".

The Web Special can be viewed at:


1. The J.F. Kapnek Charitable Trust

The Kapnek Trust implements programmes in support of education, medical research and health care in Zimbabwe. The Trust funds a variety of innovative projects, including The Paediatric AIDS Fund-Zimbabwe, designed to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with a particular focus on paediatric HIV/AIDS. It also gives special emphasis to strengthening resources for the education of women, as women's education is tied integrally to declining birth rates and reductions in maternal and infant mortality.

2. Kubatana Trust of Zimbabwe

The Kubatana Trust of Zimbabwe is an online community for activists. It incorporates the NGO, Network Alliance Project (NNAP), and aims to strengthen the use of email and internet strategies among Zimbabwean NGOs and civil society organisations. The service also makes human rights and civic education information accessible to the general public from a centralised electronic source.

3. Planet Poz

This is a non-profit organisation working for the global education, research, and rehabilitation of all people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Among other programmes, Planet Poz has created a Peer Education Programme in New Mexico, called People to People, with the aim of getting those living with HIV to conduct presentations to the public on HIV/AIDS facts, basics on hepatitis, and testimonials of living with HIV/AIDS and, for some, co-infection with hepatitis.



Recent AFRICA Reports

Report questions value of past AIDS lessons,  31/Mar/04
Interview with AIDS activist Milly Katana,  31/Mar/04
Treatment programmes skewed in favour of urban males,  30/Mar/04
Generics challenge brand-name anti-AIDS drugs at conference,  30/Mar/04
Interview with Professor Alan Whiteside, AIDS economist,  29/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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