IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 182, 21 May 2004
Wednesday 23 June 2004
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IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 182, 21 May 2004

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


SOUTHERN AFRICA: GDP drops by 2.6 percent because of HIV/AIDS
AFRICA: Guidelines for HIV/AIDS Interventions in Emergency settings
SOUTH AFRICA: New challenge in achieving adherence
ZAMBIA: Traditional healers called in to treat HIV/AIDS
MOZAMBIQUE: Favourable IMF report on PRSP, MDG progress
SWAZILAND: Life expectancy to drop to 40 yrs by 2010 - report
AFRICA: Fast-track system for combination anti-AIDS drug use welcomed
ZIMBABWE: Youth provide leadership in AIDS effort
SOUTH AFRICA: World Bank competition for implementable, innovative projects
ZIMBABWE: Men break with tradition to become AIDS caregivers


1. IAVI Report Online
2. Widows' Tailor Training and Arts and Crafts



SOUTHERN AFRICA: GDP drops by 2.6 percent because of HIV/AIDS

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Southern African countries has dropped by 2.6 percent because of HIV/AIDS, according to the development NGO, ActionAid International.

"There is a direct link between HIV/AIDS prevalence and the drop in food production in the region," the head of ActionAid's Southern Africa partnership programme, Caroline Sande-Mukulira, told PlusNews at the end of a four-day summit on HIV/AIDS and poverty in the South African capital, Pretoria.

Southern Africa is home to less than two percent of the world's population, but has 30 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS.

A study conducted by ActionAid found that between 1995 and 2001, most Southern African Development Community countries recorded a decline in their Human Development Index. In 2003 a survey revealed that life expectancy in almost the entire region, except Mauritius and the Seychelles, was less than 51 years, while in Zambia it was as low as 33.4 years.

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AFRICA: Guidelines for HIV/AIDS Interventions in Emergency settings

With conflict and natural disaster fuelling the spread of HIV/AIDS in the developing world, the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force on HIV/AIDS in Emergency Settings (IASC-TF) has released a practical handbook on effective interventions in the field.

While earlier guidelines were developed by the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR), UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for crisis situations, they mainly concentrated on the health aspects of HIV and did not consider the impact of the pandemic on other sectors.

The publication, "Guidelines for HIV/AIDS Interventions in Emergency Settings", aims to assist individuals and organisations in their efforts to address the needs of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in emergency situations.

"Most of the humanitarian partners were developing their own tools, without understanding the disease as a multisectoral problem. I would say that the issue of HIV/AIDS in emergency situations was mainly dealt with through prevention activities, to avoid it spreading," coordinator of the IASC-TF, Dr Michel Tailhades, told PlusNews.

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SOUTH AFRICA: New challenge in achieving adherence

South Africa's rollout of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS has presented the government with a new set of challenges.

Health authorities now face the formidable task of educating beneficiaries about the need to adhere strictly to the drug regime. If ARVs are not taken consistently, twice a day at the correct time, patients will develop resistant strains of the virus, making the medication ineffective.

The Ithemba antiretroviral outreach project of St. Mary's Hospital in Mariannhill in KwaZulu-Natal province has put in place a comprehensive compulsory ARV education course for patients before they receive ARVs.

"If we don't do it right the first time around, we will see a large number of people resistant to ARVs in a few years' time, and this country can hardly afford the first round [of free ARV treatment]," Ithemba community outreach director, Monty Thomas, told IRIN.

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ZAMBIA: Traditional healers called in to treat HIV/AIDS

With less than two percent of HIV-infected Zambians able to access antiretrovirals, plans were announced on Tuesday to begin testing traditional medicines as an alternative treatment for the pandemic.

Dr Patrick Chikusu, head of the department of pharmacy at the University of Zambia (UNZA), and chairman of the National Aids Council (NAC) Technical Working Group on Traditional and Alternative Remedies, said orthodox medicines on their own had failed to contain the rising number of HIV/AIDS deaths, and it was time alternative medicines were tested for their efficacy in treating the disease.

The announcement ended many years of debate and speculation in Zambia as to whether modern and traditional medicines could be combined in the fight against the pandemic.

Chikusu has invited all those with claims to alternative treatment to submit samples of their medicines to NAC, where they will be subjected to thorough laboratory tests and only administered to patients after being approved.

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MOZAMBIQUE: Favourable IMF report on PRSP, MDG progress

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) review of Mozambique's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and economic and social plan for 2003 says the country is well placed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs are a set of objectives for human development, to be met by 2015, agreed to by the 147 countries that are signatories to the Millennium Declaration of September 2000.

The goals are, broadly, to: eradicate poverty and food insecurity; attain universal primary education; promote gender equality; reduce infant mortality; improve maternal health; fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; guarantee environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

In terms of reducing extreme poverty and food insecurity, the central objective of Mozambique's PRSP (also known by its Portuguese acronym PARPA) is to bring poverty down to below 60 percent of the population by 2005 - a goal the review says "has already been met", however, "despite these favourable trends, poverty levels remain high".

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SWAZILAND: Life expectancy to drop to 40 yrs by 2010 - report

The Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) predicts that the high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate will lower life expectancy to just 40 years by 2010.

The first large-scale survey of Swazi homes to determine the impact of HIV/AIDS found a reversal of the decade-long trend of lower mortality rates, due to the pandemic. "Swaziland has entered uncharted territory", concluded the VAC's findings for 2003, released this week.

The VAC, which falls under the ministry of agriculture's National Disaster Relief Task Force, sought data to predict the effect of HIV/AIDS on future food production.

It discovered that homes burdened with the costs of caring for ailing family members, or the loss of breadwinners to AIDS, were now increasingly financially dependent on the sale of food grown in small family plots. In about 88 percent of Swazi households the proceeds from their domestic produce was the single largest source of income, followed by remittances from relatives with jobs in towns.

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AFRICA: Fast-track system for combination anti-AIDS drug use welcomed

The Global AIDS Fund on Monday welcomed a move by the US Health and Human Services department to facilitate the wider use of fixed-dose combination anti-AIDS drugs in developing countries.

A major scaling up of HIV/AIDS treatment is currently being financed by the Fund in over 100 developing countries, where simplified drug regimens play a crucial role in bringing about more rapid expansion and improved compliance.

Research has shown that people on anti-AIDS treatment were able to reduce their pill consumption to as little as one tablet twice a day as a result of fixed-dose combination drugs.

Although only generic drug companies are producing the fixed-dose combinations, the prospects for a wider selection of these drugs becoming available were improved earlier this week when three major US pharmaceutical companies, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Gilead Sciences and Merck and Company, said plans were underway to develop a fixed-dose combination of three of their anti-AIDS medicines.

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ZIMBABWE: Youth provide leadership in AIDS effort

With young people in Zimbabwe most at risk from HIV/AIDS, a new project is seeking to empower youth representatives to make a difference among their peers.

The District Response Initiative (DRI), which works to reduce the effects of HIV/AIDS on rural youth in seven of the country's most impoverished districts, is already using trained peer educators to encourage HIV/AIDS awareness at youth-friendly clubs and centres.

Now the DRI has drafted youth office-bearers - teenagers appointed as young parliamentarians, governors and councilors by the ministry of youth - into the cause.

The office bearers, aged between 15 and 20, were appointed to their one-year posts after excelling at public-speaking competitions organised at school, district and national level by the ministry of youth. The strategy utilises their popularity among their peers and ability to get age-mates to listen to them and talk more freely about issues they would feel too embarrassed to discuss with adults.

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SOUTH AFRICA: World Bank competition for implementable, innovative projects

The World Bank (WB) will host a Development Marketplace in Johannesburg early in June to award about US $400,000 to proposals that can be turned into action to help combat HIV/AIDS in the region.

The initiative will provide a platform for organisations to present new, creative ideas around fighting HIV/AIDS and share information on community-based best practices.

"The Development Marketplace is about knowledge exchange and turning ideas on how to fight HIV/AIDS into action. The World Bank and its development partners will award start-up funds to projects that bring people and institutions together, and have the best promise of moving from concept to concrete results," the Bank's external relations officer and project co-ordinator, Mallory Saleson, told PlusNews.

Competition categories included promoting income generation for HIV positive people, especially in rural areas; stepping up awareness for prevention, especially among young people; reaching vulnerable people, including children, people with disabilities and orphans; ways to destigmatise the disease; and HIV/Aids workplace and private-sector community programmes.

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ZIMBABWE: Men break with tradition to become AIDS caregivers

Zimbabwean men have become increasingly involved in caring for AIDS patients, challenging the stereotype that caring for the terminally ill is women's work.

Until recently it would have been inconceivable to 48-year-old Luckson Murungweni that he would one day be actively involved in caring for the chronically ill, let alone those dying from AIDS. Now his attitude is different and he has become the focal point of a home-based care project in rural Goromonzi, some 35 kilometres east of the capital, Harare.

"For years we watched with bleeding hearts as our daughters and sons came home from the towns and cities to die after having contracted HIV. Those who lived in the towns were also passing on the virus to the young in the area, and the burden of caring for the ill was left to women," Murungweni told PlusNews.

"As men, we never viewed ourselves as crucial in providing care to those being claimed by the AIDS pandemic, choosing instead to spend most of our time at Juru Growth Point [a central business centre], drinking beer. But things changed last year when councillors in various districts of Goromonzi approached us and urged us to become involved," he explained.

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1. IAVI Report Online

The brand new IAVI Report Online is a centralized source of information on all aspects of AIDS vaccine research and associated scientific disciplines - from basic science, like molecular virology and immunology, to more applied fields, such as HIV prevention research. The site also carries international HIV/AIDS news and the latest published research on AIDS vaccine development.

2. Widows' Tailor Training and Arts and Crafts

The site details the work of the Uganda-based AIDS Orphans Education Trust (AOET), which trains and supports widows by providing counseling and material help, teaching tailoring and sales skills to enable them to become self-reliant and increase their self-esteem. AOET believes the women will realise they can still make a valuable contribution to their community.


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

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 Networks
  • GTZ/Afronets

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