IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 187, 25 June 2004
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IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 187, 25 June 2004

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


SOUTH AFRICA: HIV caregivers struggle to make a living
SOUTH AFRICA: New database gives AIDS orphans quicker access to grants
SWAZILAND: Debate over male circumcision
MALAWI: Empowerment of girls key to tackling HIV
ZIMBABWE: Alarm over HIV prevalence in armed forces
LIBERIA: HIV/AIDS prevalence surveys six to 12 months away
SWAZILAND: Pregnant school girls no longer face expulsion


1. 150 Basic HIV/AIDS Facts
3. International AIDS Conference: New Website on Youth and HIV/AIDS



SOUTH AFRICA: HIV caregivers struggle to make a living

As the number of HIV-positive children and AIDS orphans continues to rise in South Africa's east-coast KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, AIDS organisations have embarked on community-based projects aimed at generating income for the guardians of children affected by the virus.

The goal is to create self-sufficiency and ultimately gain independence from funding agencies. But it has been difficult to sustain the programmes, especially those focusing on traditional crafts, such as beadwork and woodcarvings.

Although beautifully made, the goods often fail to generate income because the crafters lack business and product development skills. The price of a traditional beaded bracelet ranges between R10 and R20 (US $1.50 to $3), but the material costs about US 50 cents and it takes about three hours to make one. This amounts to an income of US 4 to 6 cents per hour.

Since artisans mostly follow traditional Zulu patterns and colour schemes, a large number of similar looking products hits the markets, which also keeps prices down.

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SOUTH AFRICA: New database gives AIDS orphans quicker access to grants

A new computerised database is giving a number of AIDS orphans in a rural town in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province quick access to government foster care grants.

The database, prepared in collaboration with the department of welfare, has allowed Ingwavuma Orphan Care (IOC), an NGO in northern KZN, to get about 500 AIDS orphans on the grant scheme in four years. Another 1,350 children affected by HIV/AIDS have been listed in its database for applications.

The database is designed to provide all the necessary information an orphan's guardian has to submit to qualify for a grant, IOC founder and director Ann Barnard explained. Data is easily emailed to the department of welfare when information needs to be submitted, matched or double-checked.

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SWAZILAND: Debate over male circumcision

Male circumcision as a method to the reduce risk of HIV infection is being hotly debated this week after a prominent politician announced that his four sons had been circumcised, contrary to Swazi tradition.

"All male children should be circumcised. To show my seriousness, I have taken all my sons for circumcision," MP and former House Speaker, Marwick Khumalo, told his constituents at Lobamba, 20 km east of the capital, Mbabane. Khumalo said he wondered why circumcision, despite the evidence of its effectiveness, was not being stressed as a way to reduce HIV infection.

Dr Alan Brody, national director of the UN Children's Fund, who supports male circumcision as one precaution against HIV infection, said studies on the effectiveness of the procedure have produced differing statistics. "Depending on the report you read, the possibility of infection is reduced by 25 percent to 50 percent in the circumcised male. This is significant. The male child is best circumcised at an early age, preferably in infancy," Brody said.

But traditionalists in this conservative country frown upon the procedure, because it is not a Swazi custom. Some of Khumalo's constituents at Lobamba, a stronghold of tradition that was the royal village of King Mswati's long-reigning father, King Sobhuza, reacted negatively to the idea of male circumcision.MALAWI: Empowerment of girls key to tackling HIV

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MALAWI: Empowerment of girls key to tackling HIV

Last year 19-year-old Mercy Msiskashe was forced to drop out of school because her family could not afford to pay the fees.

"Some of my family members encouraged me to find a boyfriend and then get married. They even went to my parents, telling them that the only thing left for me was to look for a partner," she told PlusNews.

But a meeting organised by Malawi's ministry of youth, sports and culture encouraged her to seek alternative ways of continuing her education.

"I learnt a lot from that meeting. I made a decision that I should look for a technical training course. Most of my friends rushed into marriages - some have kids that they cannot support, while others, because of the need to have money, died of AIDS," she added.

Msiskashe is now one of six young women attending a year-long tailoring course at Jenga Training Centre in the northern Rumphi district.

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ZIMBABWE: Alarm over HIV prevalence in armed forces

Health workers in Zimbabwe have called for increased efforts to stem the high number of AIDS-related deaths in the armed forces.

The recently released 2003 Zimbabwe Human Development Report claimed that HIV prevalence in the armed forces far exceeded the infection rate of 24.6 percent in the general population, and three-quarters of soldiers died of AIDS within a year of leaving the army.

A UNAIDS survey undertaken in 1999 showed that 55 percent of the then 36,000-strong army were HIV-positive.

"In the military, young and socially inexperienced people are recruited and trained to be fearless and aggressive. While this is good for war situations, research shows that the youthful soldiers carry this approach into civilian life and into their private sexual interactions," the report noted.

The study was compiled by the Poverty Reduction Forum and the Institute of Development Studies, with support from the UN Development Programme.

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LIBERIA: HIV/AIDS prevalence surveys six to 12 months away

It will be at least six months before urgently needed surveys can be carried out to make an accurate assessment of the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in post-war Liberia, according to the country's National AIDS Control Programme (NACP).

"Due to the fighting over the years, we have not had an internationally acceptable standard [of data collection] to conduct a baseline survey. The best thing we could do is to put a mechanism in place, possibly within the next six to 12 months, where we could do a population-based prevalence survey," NACP head Dr James Duworko said on Friday.

The survey would produce Liberia's first national figures for those living with HIV/AIDS. With a 14-year civil war raging in the West African country until last August, data collection has been patchy. From the start of 2000 to February this year, NACP has been informed of only 617 confirmed cases of HIV.

"We have four testing centres in Monrovia, but they are not enough. We need to have close to 20 centres in the city, and other centres around the country," Duworko said.

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SWAZILAND: Pregnant school girls no longer face expulsion

High school girls who fall pregnant will no longer be expelled from their schools, the Swaziland Schools Headteachers Association resolved last week. The policy change overturns what has been standard practice since before independence, when Christian missionaries established schools in Swaziland.

"Expelling pregnant girls is inhumane, because in most cases they are impregnated by boys who are allowed to carry on with their education, while the girl stays home," Themba Shabangu, Secretary General of the headteachers' association, said in a statement.

"This is welcome news. Discrimination against pregnant girls has led to the disruption of many young lives," Florence Kunene, a counsellor with the Bosco Skills Centre in Manzini, told PlusNews. Kunene's centre has a special school for pregnant girls and teenage mothers who drop out of school to take care of their babies.

"Once a girl leaves school it is often hard for her to resume her education. This extends the cycle of poverty for those girls, who tend to be poor to begin with. These girls also have the burden of raising children, usually with little family assistance. Without a high school degree, decent jobs are hard to get," said Kunene.

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1. 150 Basic HIV/AIDS Facts

The link contains over one hundred facts on HIV/AIDS with links to articles discussing prevention methods through abstinence and mutual or private masturbation, how long the virus can survive after exposure, HIV/AIDS-related illnesses like herpes and the chances of contracting HIV through blood transfusion.

Make use of the links in the facts that direct you to a search tool with a pre-made search for linked keywords to further your quest across the net's more than 125 top search engines.

Access the fact sheet:


This HIV/AIDS information site was launched in October 1999 with the support of websites throughout the world and has grown at a steady pace since its inception.

It was specifically created to help spread information about a ravaging disease, and to serve as a community for friends of people who are living with, or have passed away from, HIV/AIDS.

AIDS 101 is designed for educational purposes and does not render medical advice or professional services.

3. International AIDS Conference: New Website on Youth and HIV/AIDS

This is a partnership website sponsored by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Resources were provided by an informal planning committee of US-based and global organisations working together to highlight issues of importance to young people at the upcoming Bangkok AIDS Conference in July.

Young people are at the heart of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. More than half the 14,000 people infected each day are under 25 years old; the majority are girls. In spite of the disproportionate risks and burdens they face, young people have also proven to be society's best hope in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The Youth and HIV/AIDS site was developed to provide policy-makers, media, youth, activists and others attending or interested in the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, with the tools to ensure that young people are at the centre of global and national debate and decision-making.


Recent AFRICA Reports
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 195, 20 August 2004, 20/Aug/04
HIV-positive women speak out, 17/Aug/04
Sexual Offences bill raises many concerns, 13/Aug/04
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 194, 13 August 2004, 13/Aug/04
Removal of generic drugs from WHO list a wake-up call, 6/Aug/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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