IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 181, 14 May 2004
Wednesday 23 June 2004
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IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 181, 14 May 2004


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


NEWS:

ZIMBABWE: Calls for decentralisation of ARV programmes
SOUTH AFRICA: Study of HIV risk in children sounds alarm bells
ZIMBABWE: Fishermen neglected target for new AIDS awareness
AFRICA: Social scientists leave conference armed with fresh ideas
AFRICA: The challenge of stigma
COTE D IVOIRE: AIDS activists angry at slow disbursement from Global Fund
ZAMBIA: New approach to HIV/AIDS treatment needed
SOUTH AFRICA: SAHARA conference opens
LESOTHO: First health centre to distribute ART opened
NIGERIA: Rights activist seeks to end discrimination against those with AIDS
NIGERIA: Persecuted gay community cautiously seeks voice
BURKINA FASO: Sentinel survey shows decline in AIDS prevalence
SOUTH AFRICA: Feature - Problems implementing HIV/AIDS caregiver grant

LINKS:

1. Children Affected by AIDS
2. BAM! Body and Mind

CONFERENCES/ EVENTS/ RESEARCH/ RESOURCES:

JOB OPPORTUNITIES:



ZIMBABWE: Calls for decentralisation of ARV programmes

A government decision to distribute anti-AIDS drugs at two of Zimbabwe's largest urban hospitals has been criticised because the majority of people in need of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs live in rural areas.

As Zimbabwe moves towards its third decade of the AIDS pandemic, more people are falling sick and there is a greater need for care and treatment in rural areas, where it is estimated that over 70 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are located.

The lack of voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) centres, said Shadreck Ndhlovu, coordinator of the Binga rural District AIDS Action Committee in Matabeleland North province, makes precise data on the HIV/AIDS prevalence in most rural areas extremely difficult to obtain.

There is only one district hospital in Binga, and it provides VCT services for antenatal clients only. But evidence in two of the most remote and poorest provinces in Zimbabwe point to a rising AIDS epidemic in the rural areas.

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SOUTH AFRICA: Study of HIV risk in children sounds alarm bells

The first national study of HIV risk in South African children aged between two and 18 has revealed an overall prevalence rate of 5.4 percent.

The National Household HIV Prevalence and Risk Survey of South African Children by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) showed that 6.2 percent of children aged between two and nine were HIV positive, 4.7 percent of 10 to 14 year-olds, and 5 percent of teenagers aged 15 to 18.

"Most of the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS research that has been conducted is on youth and adult - there is a dearth of information on HIV risk among children," Dr Olive Shisana, executive director of HSRC told PlusNews.

Just under 4,000 children and teenagers participated in the national survey, with some 3,300 providing an oral fluid specimen for HIV testing. Caregivers answered questionnaires on behalf of 2,138 children in the two to 11 age group, with separate questionnaires produced for the 12 to 14-year-olds and teenagers.

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ZIMBABWE: Fishermen neglected target for new AIDS awareness

As HIV prevalence rates in Zimbabwe continue to rise, AIDS activists have begun tackling areas of the country where awareness and information about the disease remain limited.

The National AIDS Council has identified fishing camps across the country as potentially high HIV transmission areas and has embarked on a vigorous campaign to educate the fishermen about safer sex.

The camps are rough and remote settlements in the bush where small groups of fishermen work the Zambezi river, staying away from home for at least a week at a time.

Absence from home, and the phenomenon of "sex-for-fish", in which women traders visit the camps and exchange sex for part of the fishermen's catch, increase the risk of HIV transmission.

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AFRICA: Social scientists leave conference armed with fresh ideas

The Second African Conference on Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research (SAHARA), held in Cape Town, South Africa, drew to a close on Wednesday, leaving delegates armed with fresh learning and new networks.

"The establishment of a network that focuses on the social aspects around HIV/AIDS is recognition that an exceptional epidemic requires exceptional action on the part of everyone," Mbulawa Mugabe, UNAIDS country coordinator for South Africa, told PlusNews.

Over 120 contributions were presented at the four-day conference, organised by South Africa's Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), with the theme of "Promoting an African Alliance to Mitigate the Effects of HIV/AIDS on a Sustainable Basis".

"For the second time we've had a group of experts in their fields come together, a continent-wide research alliance on social aspects of HIV/AIDS," said Dr Olive Shisana, HSRC executive director.

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AFRICA: The challenge of stigma

Stigma associated with AIDS is exceptionally complex, with far-reaching consequences, social scientists said at a conference on the social aspects of HIV/AIDS research in South Africa this week.

"Socially stigmatising beliefs about AIDS impede HIV prevention, diagnosis, and care," researcher Seth Kalichman said at the four-day meeting of the Second African Conference of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research, held in Cape Town.

From Kalichman's study in two townships outside Cape Town, he found that stigmatising beliefs were prevalent, and associated with misinformation and mythical conceptions of HIV/AIDS.

"We discovered that people that hold traditional beliefs about the cause of AIDS, such as the belief that AIDS is caused by spirits and supernatural forces, are more likely to stigmatise people living with HIV/AIDS," he told PlusNews.

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COTE D IVOIRE: AIDS activists angry at slow disbursement from Global Fund

AIDS activists are angry that six months after Cote d'Ivoire received a US $91 million grant to fight the disease, not a penny of the money has been spent on actual projects to fight the spread of the HI virus or help those living with AIDS.

A first tranche of $28 million from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis was finally made available to the government of Cote d'Ivoire in December last year, after being held up by several months of infighting between different ministries over who would get to spend it.

But the representative of one Ivorian non-governmental organisation (NGO) involved in the fight against AIDS complained to IRIN: "Projects have been submitted to the committee that is coordinating how the funds will be spent, but nothing has been done yet."

Anxious not to spoil his organisation's own chances of getting some of the money, he asked that he and his group should not be named.

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ZAMBIA: New approach to HIV/AIDS treatment needed

Although antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been available in Zambia since 2002, few Zambians have joined the national treatment programme, says research presented at a conference on the social aspects of HIV/AIDS care and treatment.

While antiretrovirals (ARVs) are relatively cheap, they are only accessible after both a CD4 test, which costs US $40, and a US $30 viral load test. "The doctors that are responsible for the rollout of ART insist on both tests, so the initial outlay is very expensive," Namposya Nampanya-Serpell, author of the research paper, "Access to Treatment and ARV Uptake in Zambia", told PlusNews.

Presenting her findings to the Second African Conference on Social Aspects of Access to Care and Treatment in Cape Town, South Africa, Nampanya-Serpell, the outgoing UNAIDS country coordinator for Zambia, said that just over 4,000 Zambians were on ART.

In the first phase of Zambia's rollout plan, ARVs have been available in all nine provincial hospitals since 2002, at a cost of $10 for a month's supply. The goal was to have 10,000 people living with HIV/AIDS on treatment by the end of 2003. The second phase, now underway, will introduce the programme in all 72 districts of Zambia.

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SOUTH AFRICA: SAHARA conference opens

Over 350 social researchers, doctors, representatives of national and international organisations, NGOs and donor agencies are attending the Second African Conference on Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research (SAHARA) in Cape Town, South Africa.

The four-day conference, themed "Promoting an African Alliance to Mitigate the Effects of HIV/AIDS on a Sustainable Basis", was organised by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to share ideas among scientists working on the social impact of HIV/AIDS treatment and care programmes across sub-Saharan Africa.

It is anticipated that the sharing of expertise, experience and research will help inform policy and programme implementation.

"The conference will provide a unique opportunity for African researchers to make inputs to a continent-wide research alliance on social aspects of HIV/AIDS, and it will serve as a catalyst for broader discussion," said Dr Olive Shisana, executive director of social aspects of HIV/AIDS and health at HSRC.

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LESOTHO: First health centre to distribute ART opened

Lesotho's first health centre to provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) was officially opened on Friday by the Prime Minister, Dr Pakalitha Mosisili.

The Senkatana Centre is a pilot project in the planned national rollout of antiretroviral drugs and strengthening of the NGO sector to provide support. It is one of five community-based HIV/AIDS treatment support programmes in Southern Africa funded by drug giant Bristol-Myers Squibb's US $100 million "Secure the Future" initiative to fight the pandemic in the world's hardest-hit region.

Since last year Lesotho has initiated four programmes in an effort to scale up its response to AIDS. These included prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, a series of workshops on transformational leadership, dissemination of a document on scaling up the national response and a campaign aimed at encouraging the Basotho people to be tested and receive counseling.

The Centre is a partnership of clinical services, private practitioners and non-governmental, community-based and faith-based organisations.

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NIGERIA: Rights activist seeks to end discrimination against those with AIDS

Femi Soyinka, one of Nigeria's leading human rights activists, has decided to take a public stand against the discrimination suffered by more than one million of his countrymen and women who are living with AIDS.

Soyinka, a former professor of medicine at Ife University in southwestern Nigeria, told IRIN that people living with the HI virus and AIDS were often shunned by other members of society and treated like criminals.

But he warned that their marginalisation was a major factor causing the continued spread of the epidemic in Africa's most populous country.

Speaking on the sidelines of Nigeria's fourth national conference on AIDS in the capital, Abuja, Soyinka said: "The effort of promoting the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS has been ineffective in Nigeria. The criminalisation of HIV is always an issue."

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NIGERIA: Persecuted gay community cautiously seeks voice

Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Nigeria, but gay rights groups made their first ever appearance at the country's fourth national AIDS conference in the capital, Abuja, this week.

They called on their fellow countrymen to recognise and protect Nigeria's gay community, pointing out that it has been hit hard by the AIDS pandemic.

In Nigeria, homosexual practice can carry a 14-year jail sentence under federal law. In the 12 northern states that have adopted Islamic Shari'ah law, adults found to have engaged in homosexual intercourse can be stoned to death.

However, most of the time, people deny the existence of "MSMs" - men who have sex with men - as male homosexuals are generally known in Nigeria.

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BURKINA FASO: Sentinel survey shows decline in AIDS prevalence

The HIV infection rate in Burkina Faso has declined sharply over the past year, according to 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 HI virus. That represented a sharp fall from the 6.5% HIV prevalence rate registered by the 2003 sentinel survey, and the 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.

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SOUTH AFRICA: Feature - Problems implementing HIV/AIDS caregiver grant

As the number of South Africans infected with HIV/AIDS rises, home-based care programmes need to be persistently expanded, but most such projects are run by NGOs using volunteers due to a lack of funding, and without an income the unpaid caregivers have trouble supporting themselves and their families.

In March the Department of Health decided to assist caregivers, rolling out a policy framework for community health workers that makes available grants to volunteers employed by government-sponsored NGOs, while still emphasising that "the spirit of voluntarism should be encouraged".

The scheme is meant to empower communities to improve their basic health status, but in practice the government's funding criteria do not always match the situation of caregivers working in the field.

NGOs may apply for a "minimum stipend" of R1,000 (about US $144) per trained, community-based, generalist health worker in the fields of health promotion, primary health care and health resource networking and coordination.

More details



LINKS:

1. Children Affected by AIDS

Join the Children Affected by AIDS (CABA) online discussion forum facilitates vital discussion and information exchange on efforts to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on children, families, and the communities in which they live. More than 700 subscribers in 35 countries use CABA to discuss OVC (orphan and vulnerable children) programmes, events and job opportunities, and share OVC-related documents. The Synergy Project, which is hosting the forum on behalf of USAID, looks forward to your participation.

2. BAM! Body and Mind

BAM! Body and Mind is an online destination for kids created by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Designed for kids 9 to 13 years old, BAM! Body and Mind gives children the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices. The site focuses on topics that kids told us were important to them, such as stress and physical fitness, using kid-friendly lingo, games, quizzes, and other interactive features.

BAM! Body and Mind also serves as an aid to teachers, providing them with interactive, educational and fun activities linked to US national education standards for science and health.


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

  • UNAIDS
  • IRIN
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  • SAfAIDS
  • PANOS
  • Health Systems Trust
  • Health & Development Networks
  • GTZ/Afronets

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