IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 174, 26 March 2004
Sunday 20 June 2004
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IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 174, 26 March 2004


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


NEWS:

AFRICA: Interview with Hilda Tadria, regional gender advisor at ECA
AFRICA: Rights groups protest possible US threat to AIDS drug access
SWAZILAND: Seven-point plan to fight HIV/AIDS
SWAZILAND: AIDS stats must be seen in context, say authorities
SOUTHERN AFRICA: Interview with researcher Paul Harvey on humanitarian aid and HIV
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: UN Volunteers fund NGO programme to sensitise Pygmies on HIV/AIDS
BOTSWANA: Few women accessing PMTCT services
SWAZILAND: World's highest rate of HIV infection

LINKS:

1. Women, Children and HIV
2. The African Regional Youth Initiative (ARYI)
3. GAP-A

CONFERENCES/ EVENTS/ RESEARCH/ RESOURCES:

JOB OPPORTUNITIES:



AFRICA: Interview with Hilda Tadria, regional gender advisor at ECA

Hilda Tadria is a senior regional advisor on the economic empowerment of women at the Economic Commission for Africa. She spoke to PlusNews about Africa's hidden orphan crisis, where children are being increasingly exploited and girls sexually abused in extended families that are stretched to capacity by the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

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AFRICA: Rights groups protest possible US threat to AIDS drug access

International rights groups and AIDS activists have expressed concern that the US could obstruct access to generic HIV/AIDS drugs in developing countries.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Thursday that the US was convening a conference in Botswana next week, where a challenge to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) approval of generic versions of patented anti-AIDS drugs could be mounted.

Joanne Csete, director of HRW's HIV/AIDS Programme, said although WHO had made enormous headway in verifying the quality of generic AIDS drugs for millions of low-income HIV-positive people, the US government could dash that hope to protect brand-name pharmaceutical interests.

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SWAZILAND: Seven-point plan to fight HIV/AIDS

Swaziland's ailing health care system is expected to undergo major changes this year as the government prepares to tackle increasing rates of HIV/AIDS infection.

A seven-point programme of action, focused on addressing HIV/AIDS, is said to be in the pipeline.

Principal Secretary of the Health Ministry, John Kunene, told IRIN that plans were underway to increase the number of voluntary testing centres (VTCs) throughout the kingdom's four regions. "We are targeting 100 percent coverage, where any Swazis living anywhere can have access to HIV testing within a reasonable distance from his or her home, along with the counselling that is so necessary both before and after testing."

Kunene added: "Project Number Two will be a rolling out of 'PMTCT-plus' - Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission, but expanded to include the father. If we find a mother is HIV positive, we will employ the necessary medicines to halt transmission to the child, but we don't want to leave it at that - the woman's male partner must be given assistance."

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SWAZILAND: AIDS stats must be seen in context, say authorities

Statistics showing that Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in world need to be put into context, officials told Plusnews.

"It is good for Botswana that it has managed to lower its HIV infection rate, but this does not mean Swaziland's has risen. The rate is the same, though it is alarming," Dr Derek von Wissell, director of the National Emergency Response Committee on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), told Plusnews.

The news that Swaziland had supplanted Botswana as the country with the highest HIV prevalence among its population caused a stir in the tiny kingdom. Initial reports from the local press indicated that the government disputed the statitics.

An official with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare said these reports were inaccurate and clarified the ministry's reaction. "It was a misrepresentation to say we disputed the statistics. Our position is that Botswana's data is current, while ours is two years old. We must wait until we take new surveys mid-year. Our infection rate may go down, but it may have also gone up."

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SOUTHERN AFRICA: Interview with researcher Paul Harvey on humanitarian aid and HIV

Paul Harvey is a researcher with the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) of the UK-based Overseas Development Institute. He talked to Plusnews about some of the issues raised in his study for the HPG, "HIV/AIDS and Humanitarian Action", and the implications for humanitarian relief in Southern Africa.

QUESTION: How do you target food aid - how do you reach people who are believed to be living with HIV/AIDS and are vulnerable?

ANSWER: I think it comes back to needing to be clear about what you are trying to do. As you look at what has happened in Southern Africa in the last couple of years, there are different things that different agencies have tried to do.

So, if you're providing food aid as part of a broad response to what's perceived as a crisis, say in 2002/3, that 12 million people are at risk of starvation, according to the vulnerability assessment committee, and a perceived need for food aid in response to that - now that's a big traditional food aid programme in response to a humanitarian crisis.

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CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: UN Volunteers fund NGO programme to sensitise Pygmies on HIV/AIDS

The United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) has financed a training programme, undertaken by an NGO in the Central African Republic (CAR), to sensitise the Batwa, or pygmies, on protection against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The UNV programme officer in the CAR, Amadou Diallo, told IRIN on Saturday that 53 pygmies took part in the US $1,000 training programme that was held from 17 to 20 March in the town of Pissa, 80 km southwest of the capital, Bangui.

The Organisation des Volontaires pour le Development en Centrafrique (OVDC) conducted the training in three centres - Bokanga, Banda and Sangala - where the pygmies learnt how to use male and female condoms as a means of protection against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

During the training, the UNV and the OVDC distributed cartons of condoms to the pygmies.

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BOTSWANA: Few women accessing PMTCT services

Few pregnant mothers in Botswana are accessing free HIV/AIDS related services, including free antiretroviral drugs being provided by the state, says a recent study.

The survey of 504 women at ante-natal clinics and in post-natal wards countrywide, revealed that although 95 percent were accessing the health care provided at these facilities, the utilisation of free Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services and voluntary testing was still low - though it had increased from 38 percent in 2002 to 58 percent in 2003.

About 39 percent of young pregnant women in Botswana are HIV positive, according to UNAIDS.

"The most common reason for not wanting to be tested is that they doubt their own ability to cope if the test results should indicate they are HIV positive," said Dr Peter Kilmarx, director of the Botswana and USA (BOTUSA) project, which conducted the survey. The BOTUSA project is a collaborative venture between the United States' Centres for Disease Control and the Botswana government.

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SWAZILAND: World's highest rate of HIV infection

A senior UN official on Friday confirmed that Swaziland now has the world's highest rate of HIV infection, at 38.6 percent.

"Botswana has made a very strong claim that they have lowered their infection rate from 38.8 percent to 37.5 percent. That leaves Swaziland with the world's highest rate of HIV infection," Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said at the conclusion of a three-day tour of the country.

He expressed satisfaction that the scope of the crisis was now recognised by national leaders and health organisations.

"There should be an absolute devotion to HIV/AIDS in every human endeavour in Swaziland over the next few years. It is a battle the world wants you to win," Lewis said.

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LINKS:

1. Women, Children and HIV

A virtual library of everything to do with women and children and HIV with practically applicable materials on mother and child HIV infection, including preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT), infant feeding, clinical care of women and children living with HIV infection, and the support of orphans. The goal of the site is to contribute to an improvement in the scale and quality of international HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programmes for women and children, by increasing access to authoritative HIV/AIDS information.

2. The African Regional Youth Initiative (ARYI)

ARYI is a collaboration of hundreds of youth and community-based projects and organizations in Africa working to fight HIV/AIDS. ARYI aims at addressing HIV/AIDS by engaging in activities that mobilize and empower communities, increase women and youth and participation, facilitate dialogue between organisations in different countries, and other activities that build capacity, such as training in advocacy. ARYI tries to unite the work of youth- and community-based projects and organisations fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa by collaborating with community-based initiatives, sharing resources, collecting, analysing and disseminating information, and learning from shared experiences.

3. The Group Against Poverty and AIDS (GAP-A)

GAP-A, a non-profit, non-religious, non-ethnic, "pro-peace and development" organization believes that HIV/AIDS has been, and still is, the biggest threat to human existence. The site provides valuable news, a voice for CBO's, multimedia approaches to the pandemic through painting, photography and film, for example, links, literature and resources.

[ENDS]


Recent AFRICA Reports
Morris calls for increased effort in AIDS fight, 18/Jun/04
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 186, 18 June 2004, 18/Jun/04
UN welcomes G8 endorsement of HIV vaccine initiative, 14/Jun/04
Church leaders to get more involved in fighting HIV/AIDS, 14/Jun/04
NGO in HIV/AIDS sensitisation efforts, 14/Jun/04
PARTNERS

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

  • UNAIDS

  • IRIN

  • Inter Press Service (IPS)

  • SAfAIDS

  • PANOS

  • Health Systems Trust

  • Health & Development
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  • GTZ/Afronets


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