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Saturday 4 February 2006
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BURKINA FASO: Sentinel survey shows decline in AIDS prevalence

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


President Compaore with a woman living with AIDS

OUAGADOUGOU, 7 May (PLUSNEWS) - The HIV infection rate in Burkina Faso has declined sharply over the past year, according to the the country's latest sentinel survey, which is based on the voluntary testing of pregnant women at ante-natal clinics.

The 2004 survey, published on Thursday, estimated that 4.2% of Burkinabe were infected with the HIV virus. That represented a sharp fall from the 6.5% HIV prevalence rate registered by the 2003 sentinel survey, and a peak of 7.2 percent in 1997.

“We are optimistic because the stabilisation we are seeing today is a result of a reasonable change in behaviour," Doctor Mohamed Hacen, the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative for Burkina Faso, told IRIN. "If behaviour had remained unfavourable we would not have seen this decline in figures."

Health experts attributed the encouraging results to a successful information campaign in the country.

“It is a result of all the efforts by various organisations to create awareness and of the campaign that has been going on since 1986,” said Andre Joseph Tiendrebeogo of the National Committee Against HIV/AIDS, (CNLS/MST).

Sentinel surveys, which are based on the voluntary testing of women at selected ante-natal clinics across the country, are the main benchmark used by WHO and UNAIDS for assessing the prevalence of HIV infection in a country.

However, health experts warned that the latest Burkinabe survey, although encouraging, gave no grounds for complacency.

Burkina Faso is still reckoned to be in a state of “generalised epidemic” and that the prevalence rate in the capital Ouagadougou is higher than the national average at 4.7%.

“It is important that we are not carried away by any sort of euphoria, because bad habits could easily return and that would result in a catastrophic situation,” Hacen, the WHO representative in Burkina Faso, said.

“We need to tell ourselves that we have done a little and that we need to do more so that the epidemic becomes something of the past,” he continued.

The first 10 AIDS cases were diagnosed in Burkina Faso in 1986 and soon after it became the second most HIV-infected country in West Africa, after neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire.

The CNLS/MST campaign received a considerable boost in 2002 when President Blaise Compaore decided to personally become chairman of the organisation.

The government has reached agreement with two major pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline and Chemical, Industrial and Pharmaceutical Laborities of India, to bring down the cost of antiretroviral (ARV)drugs which can significantly prolong the life of people living with AIDS.

ARV therapy can improve the quality of life of those suffering from AIDS-related diseases and it can enable them to live longer, but it cannot cure them. The treatment is now available in Burkina Faso for as little as 20,000 CFA (around US$36) a month, compared to 300,000 CFA (US$550) per month four years ago.

However the tablets remain beyond the reach of most Burkinabe. According to the World Bank, average income per head in Burkina Faso is less than US$220 per year and 61% of the population survive on less than US$1 per day.

Burkina Faso recently received just over US$7 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria. Around 45% of that money will be used for the purchase of antiretroviral drugs.


Recent BURKINA FASO Reports
Government aims to put 30,000 on ARVs by 2010,  5/Jul/05
Returning migrants struggle to pay for AIDS treatment,  4/Feb/05
Government needs help to increase numbers on ARV, aid workers say,  31/Dec/04
NGOs seek local funds to access ARVs ,  8/Nov/04
Government urges traditional healers to help tackle HIV/AIDS,  25/Feb/04
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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