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IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 283, 12 May 2006


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


NEWS:

ZIMBABWE: HIV-positive people floundering as economy sinks
ZIMBABWE: Rising child malnutrition signals impact of poverty/AIDS
SIERRA LEONE: Armed forces break new ground in battle against HIV/AIDS
SWAZILAND: The vital but underestimated role of AIDS caregivers
AFRICA: Abuja AIDS Summit - promises, promises?
SOUTH AFRICA: New sexual offences bill fails to protect rape survivors
TANZANIA: Little help for HIV/AIDS orphans in refugee camps
TANZANIA: Education headed for crisis as AIDS strikes teachers

EVENTS:



ZIMBABWE: HIV-positive people floundering as economy sinks

Newspapers headlines in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, announced last week that anti-AIDS drugs were in perilously short supply, endangering the lives of HIV-positive people.

The government has attributed the crumbling of its healthcare system - which threatens its free antiretroviral (ARV) programme - to sanctions imposed by western nations.

Whether part of a western conspiracy or not, the reality is that last month, Evellyn Chamisa, 36, had to share her month's supply of ARVs, which help prolong her life, with two of her friends.

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ZIMBABWE: Rising child malnutrition signals impact of poverty/AIDS

As food prices continue to escalate in Zimbabwe, the number of children suffering from severe malnutrition has increased in suburbs around the capital, Harare, according to aid workers. But they do not rule out that the spike could be linked to HIV/AIDS, in a country with one of the worst prevalence rates in the world.

New Hope Zimbabwe (NHZ), a local NGO providing community assistance, said it recorded 50 cases of severe malnutrition every week in Epworth, one of the capital's poorest suburbs. In Dzivarasekwa and Highfields, townships within a 20km radius of Harare, it was seeing 20 to 30 cases every week.

"Epworth has the worst cases in Zimbabwe, as most of the poor live in that area. It was also the worst hit by Operation Murambatsvina ['Drive out Filth']. Most of the people's livelihoods were destroyed - people are now out of work and their small businesses are now deemed illegal, and most parents are dying from HIV/AIDS," said Pastor Elfas Zadzagomo, NHZ executive director.

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SIERRA LEONE: Armed forces break new ground in battle against HIV/AIDS

Soldiers whooped out a cheer as a trio of singers kitted out in combat fatigues crooned "Go for your VCCT test," and a back-up group dressed in purple satin broke into a routine.

A pioneering information campaign, better health services and support from army wives are coming together to help Sierra Leone's armed forces fight HIV/AIDS.

"Go for your VCCT test, go for your VCCT test, you go know your status" chanted the three lead singers on a stage decorated with posters advertising condoms.

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SWAZILAND: The vital but underestimated role of AIDS caregivers

Swaziland's home-based caregivers are too few and too poorly paid to cope with the growing numbers of bedridden AIDS patients, but in the absence of adequate health facilities and trained professionals they are seen as the immediate answer to a national emergency.

Over 40 percent of sexually active Swazis are HIV positive, but only a few thousand are on antiretroviral (ARV) medication that can help prolong their lives.

As a result, "we are going to see an increase in AIDS related illnesses [and] we find few patients' families able to take care of them - it's so demanding, and stressful work", said Zelda Nhlabatsi, a community activist from the town of Malkerns, 20km east of the capital, Mbabane.

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AFRICA: Abuja AIDS Summit - promises, promises?

African leaders meeting last week at a special summit on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, threw down a challenge to their governments by setting bold new targets to be achieved by 2010.

At the end of the gathering to review progress in implementing the 2001 Abuja Declaration on AIDS, TB and Malaria, a major resolution was passed, declaring that at least 80 percent of those in need, especially women and children, should have access to HIV/AIDS treatment, including antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, care and support.

Civil society organisations welcomed the "ambitious continental targets", but it remains to be seen whether these will be met, particularly when considering how little progress has been made in implementing goals set in 2001.

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SOUTH AFRICA: New sexual offences bill fails to protect rape survivors

Gender activists are describing a new sexual offences bill, expected to be tabled in the South African parliament this week, as a step backwards in terms of rape survivors' ability to protect themselves from HIV infection.

After languishing in various draft forms for nearly a decade, the bill was approved by cabinet last week and is expected to pass this month, with little opportunity for further public debate. Several activists and experts interviewed by PlusNews speculated that the Justice Department's apparent haste to pass the bill was a response to public pressure arising from the rape trial of former Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

"They've sat on the bill for eight and a half years, and now there's a public outcry because of the Zuma trial they want to rush it through," said Joan van Niekerk, national coordinator for Childline South Africa, who helped draft a previous bill presented to the justice minister by the South African Law Commission in 2003.

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TANZANIA: Little help for HIV/AIDS orphans in refugee camps

Childhood ends early for children orphaned by AIDS. Yassine Nzomwita Kwizera, 14, is one of an estimated 192,000 Burundian refugees living in camps in neighbouring Tanzania, where she is responsible for the welfare of two siblings aged six and nine.

Most of the refugees have fled the prevailing ethnic violence in their home country. Adults find this tough enough, but it is even harder for children forced to take on adult roles.

Yassine has never known her father and lost her mother to AIDS in Tanzania's Ngara camp. "When my mother was still alive, everything was fine. She would cook and take care of the daily chores," Yassine said. "Now we lead a very difficult life. I get these gloomy thoughts most of the time."

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TANZANIA: Education headed for crisis as AIDS strikes teachers

Education in Tanzania faces a looming crisis after government recently revealed that the sector is in danger of losing more than 27,000 teachers to HIV/AIDS by 2020.

"The impact of HIV/AIDS on education, just as in other sectors, such as health [or] the economy, is serious," local government minister Mizengo Pinda told a recent HIV/AIDS workshop in Morogoro, some 300km west of the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

For the past four years free primary education has caused the student teacher ratio to rise every year, but the impact of HIV/AIDS-related deaths and morbidity among the teaching corps has been creating even bigger classes. Tanzania's 200,000 teachers make up roughly half the country's civil servants

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[ENDS]




 
Recent AFRICA Reports
More proof that a snip in time could save men from HIV,  13/Dec/06
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 313, 8 December 2006,  8/Dec/06
Positive prevention,  7/Dec/06
AIDS 'paradigm shift' in life insurance,  5/Dec/06
Hitting the target? New study explores HIV/AIDS information needs,  1/Dec/06
Links
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· AEGIS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance


PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


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