IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 192, 30 July 2004
Monday 16 August 2004
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IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 192, 30 July 2004

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


DJIBOUTI: More free antiretroviral drugs to become available
GREAT LAKES: New intergovernmental effort to combat AIDS
ZIMBABWE: Global Fund turns down application on technical grounds
AFRICA: Interview with WHO Assistant Director General for Family and Community Health
SOUTHERN AFRICA: Female-headed households most vulnerable to food insecurity
AFRICA: Call for better strategies to fight AIDS
GUINEA-BISSAU: Government launches first big push against AIDS
SWAZILAND: OVC tell their stories at a unique conference
GUINEA: Refugee influx adds fuel to AIDS crisis in southeast Guinea


A personal account of being HIV-positive by PlusNews journalist Hayden Horner


1. Strategies for Hope
2. Reaching Out to Africa's Orphans



DJIBOUTI: More free antiretroviral drugs to become available

The Djibouti government is to expand the provision of free antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to people infected with the HI virus, using an allocation of US $12 million from the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS Malaria and Tuberculosis, officials told PlusNews.

Omar Ali Ismael, the head of Djibouti's inter-sectoral technical committee on HIV/AIDS, said the government would also improve treatment and care for those suffering from AIDS, target vulnerable groups through prevention and care, promote civil society involvement and step up data gathering and surveillance.

Only 200 people were receiving free ARVs, Omar Ali said. With the new funding, the number of those receiving free ARVs would initially be increased to 4,000.

"Everybody in Djibouti, including refugees and legal immigrants who need ARVs up to 2007, will be able to receive them free," he told PlusNews on Monday

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GREAT LAKES: New intergovernmental effort to combat AIDS

In an effort to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Great Lakes region, government ministers from six countries signed a convention on Tuesday, establishing a new regional organisation called the Great Lakes Initiative on AIDS (GLIA).

The Great Lakes has the world's second highest incidence of HIV infection, after southern Africa.

In a statement following a two-day conference in Bujumbura, Burundi, the Council of Ministers agreed that the organisation would be headquartered in Rwanda's capital, Kigali. Member states are Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Part of the GLIA's role will be to monitor the movement of people in the region, said Burundi's representative, Luc Rukingama, the minister in charge of fighting AIDS.

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ZIMBABWE: Global Fund turns down application on technical grounds

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has dismissed claims that "politics" were behind a decision to reject Zimbabwe's US $218 million application, forcing the country to shelve its plans to scale up HIV/AIDS treatment.

A spokesman for the Global Fund, Tim Clark, confirmed on Thursday that the country's proposal was turned down for "technical reasons", but stressed that the decision "had nothing to do with political considerations".

"Zimbabwe's application, like all the others, was assessed by an independent board of disease experts who found several technical shortcomings. To suggest that the Global Fund has made a decision based on political merit is ridiculous. After all, the Fund has worked with countries such as Sudan and North Korea," Clark told PlusNews.

Clark was responding to comments made by David Parirenyatwa, Zimbabwe's Minister of Health and Child Welfare, who accused the Fund of political bias.

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AFRICA: Interview with WHO Assistant Director General for Family and Community Health

Joy Phumaphi, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Assistant Director General for Family and Community Health, highlighted the need to prioritise women and girl children in the fight against HIV/AIDS during an interview with IRIN. She spoke after a two-day meeting of the Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (CHG) in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, which ended on Tuesday.

QUESTION: Why should women and girl children be prioritised in the fight against HIV/AIDS?

ANSWER: It is not that women and children should be prioritised - what happens in the provision of services is that women and girl children are left behind ... In a lot of African countries health is not free, and those with resources dictate how resources are spent. When a woman cooks for the family, she gives them the best food and takes what is left behind. Women do not have equal access to health services because they do not command resources, and in a family they come last.

So you have to find special ways to bring them in. Fifty-eight percent of infected people in Africa are women and girl children. In some countries, among certain age groups like teenagers and young adults, the majority of infected people are female. In some countries the figure is as high as 65 percent.

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SOUTHERN AFRICA: Female-headed households most vulnerable to food insecurity

Female-headed households continue to bear the brunt of poverty and ongoing food shortages in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, according to recent surveys.

The Consortium for Southern Africa's Food Emergency (C-SAFE) and the World Food Programme (WFP) released their latest Community and Household Surveillance (CHS) reports, based on information gathered in October 2003 and March 2004, analysing the livelihood and food security status of households and vulnerable groups in the three southern African countries.

The Zimbabwe study found that of the 854 households surveyed in 34 districts during October 2003, 34.5 percent were female-headed. Among several vulnerable groups, including households with a chronically ill, disabled or orphaned member, "female-headed households were more prone to vulnerability than their male counterparts".

Ninety percent of all female-headed households fell into two or more vulnerable categories, while only 39 percent of their male counterparts were in the same situation.

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AFRICA: Call for better strategies to fight AIDS

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been urged by delegates attending a conference on scaling-up the response to HIV/AIDS in Africa to act as a global champion for countries looking to develop generic anti-AIDS drugs and stem the brain drain of health workers.

"One of the recommendations is that we need to ensure a sustainable supply of ARVs [antiretrovirals] through governments, and not just the donor organisations, by assisting African countries to manufacture generic drugs," said Vuyisele Otukile, chief executive officer of Botswana's Youth Health Organisation (YOHO).

"We also need to empower traditional birth attendants, including other health providers like lay counsellors, to do rapid testing of HIV/AIDS on site and be able to give Nevirapine [the drug that can cut transmission of HIV by more than 50 percent] to HIV-positive mothers," he added.

The delegates were attending a two-day meeting in Botswana this week, hosted by a UN Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (CHGA) to examine the challenges of scaling up HIV/AIDS treatment and care. The session was the second in a series of five planned regional meetings organised by the commission, which was set up by Annan to address the unique challenges posed by the epidemic in Africa.

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GUINEA-BISSAU: Government launches first big push against AIDS

The government of Guinea-Bissau is launching its first big push against HIV/AIDS with the help of a US $19 million aid package from the World Bank and the Global Fund against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Health Minister Odete Costa Semedo said.

The money pledged recently by these two donors would be used to help fund a three-year strategic plan to control AIDS, she told PlusNews.

As part of the 2003-2005 plan, antiretroviral (ARV) drugs will make their debut in this small West African country of 1.3 million to improve the quality of life of people living with AIDS, Costa Semedo said.

The drugs would be distributed free to those least able to pay for them, but local doctors would first have to be trained how to use and prescribe the new medication, the health minister said.

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SWAZILAND: OVC tell their stories at a unique conference

Faced with a growing population of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC), Swaziland's policymakers have turned to the children themselves to assess their needs at a conference outside the central commercial town of Manzini.

"I am happy they are asking me about my life, because it is hard, and I think they should do more for orphans," said Sifiso Nhleko, a form three student from Siteki in the eastern Lubombo district near the Mozambique border.

Nhleko, who has hereditary dwarfism, is a resourceful teenager who crafted his own crutch when he grew weary of hobbling about on an iron rod he discovered beneath a bridge - "a carpenter gave me wood and screws and he showed me how to make a crutch," he said.

Nhleko and his two siblings inherited the condition from their mother, who was born with the same handicap. "My father got angry and he left us. He said my mother could only give birth to children who are worthless to him and could not help him. Every day I wonder how he wanted us to help him," he said.

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GUINEA: Refugee influx adds fuel to AIDS crisis in southeast Guinea

There are only two AIDS testing centres in the whole of Guinea and only one pilot project supplying antiretroviral drugs to a group of 50 people.

Aid workers and medical staff say the disease is spreading out of control in the country's remote southeast, where a massive influx of refugees from neighbouring Liberia has complicated the situation.

"In Guinea, we are at the early stage of the fight against the virus," said Dr Aissatou Dieng, who works for the German cooperation agency GTZ in the capital, Conakry. "And we're swamped by a flood of demands for help."

GTZ currently runs a pilot programme that offers 50 people living with AIDS free antiretroviral therapy to improve their quality of life and prolong survival. But the money for this will run out after 12 months and a second scheme funded by UNAIDS to treat 286 people with ARVs has yet to be given a start date.

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A personal account of being HIV-positive by PlusNews journalist Hayden Horner.

"I've been told that I don't look like someone who may eventually die of an AIDS-related illness. I'm still trying to figure out the meaning of that," writes Hayden.

The journal is not part of the emailed services provided by PlusNews, and is only available on the PlusNews website


1. Strategies for Hope

Strategies For Hope started in 1989 to promote informed, positive thinking and practical action by all sections of society in dealing with HIV and AIDS through a series of books, videos and training packages.

The Strategies For Hope series is published by ActionAid, in collaboration with UNAIDS and other international organisations, with the support of the UK Department for International Development.

Since its inception more than 750,000 copies of books, 6,000 copies of documentary videos and over 3,000 training packages have been distributed in over 160 countries.

2. Reaching Out to Africa's Orphans

By 2010 the number of children in sub-Saharan Africa who have lost one or both parents to AIDS is expected to reach 35 million.

To make matters worse, many African countries are coping with civil unrest and post-conflict situations, resulting in more orphans and displaced children.

This study looks at the risks and vulnerabilities faced by orphans, and the effects of government and donor actions on them, asking what works and what does not.

Access the study at:


Recent AFRICA Reports
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
Campaign to create awareness on sexual offences law, 6/Aug/04
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 193, 6 August 2004, 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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