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JOHANNESBURG, 2 August 2001 (PlusNews) - CONTENTS: ZAMBIA: UNICEF calls for education about MTCT SOUTH AFRICA: Defence Force launches AIDS campaign ZAMBIA: UNICEF calls for education about MTCT UNICEF has called for more information to be disseminated on mother-to-child-transmission of HIV/AIDS. UNICEF’s Resident Representative in Zambia told IRIN on Thursday that there was a need for the media to engage in “responsible journalism” to ensure the dissemination of accurate information where women and children’s health were at risk. Goings said although breast feeding saved 1.5 million lives every year, there were some risks when HIV-positive mothers breast-fed. “Breast feeding saves lives. It is the best way of providing excellent nutrition for the new-born and it protects children from diarrhoea, respiratory diseases and a long list of infectious diseases that threaten the lives of children,” Goings said. She added that women who were HIV-positive and breast fed their children had about a 15 percent chance of transmitting the virus to their infants if no alternative was found. She said that in Africa, where the HIV/AIDS infection rate in pregnant women stood at 30 percent, breast feeding was the only option and poverty made the baby more vulnerable to infectious diseases. She suggested that voluntary and confidential HIV testing be made available to all people and that positive women be provided with sound pre-natal care and be offered anti-retroviral drugs which lessen the risk of HIV transmission to their infants. Goings also suggested that HIV positive women be counselled on the benefits and risks of all available feeding options based on the best available information. To read a UNICEF statement on “Preventing the spread of HIV through breastfeeding”, go to SOUTH AFRICA: Defence Force launches AIDS campaign The South African National Defence Force (SANDF), which has an estimated HIV prevalence of 17 percent, has launched a US $3 million campaign to fight the AIDS pandemic. The training programme was launched in the capital, Pretoria, by the deputy minister of defence on Wednesday. The “Masibambisane”(which means “lets work together” in Zulu) campaign aims to change the behaviour of SANDF members by addressing military specific vulnerability and susceptibility factors. The SA Military Health Services (SAMHS) created a busines plan for the SANDF and this was forwarded to the the US Pentagon as part of the US-South African military cooperation agreement. The plan was approved and received funding. Members of the military are seen as being extremely vulnerable to HIV infection and the campaign seeks to focus on ways of creating actual changes in their behavious. According to Surgeon-General Lieutenant-General Rhinus van Rensburg, the HIV Training programme hopes to achieve a minimum target of one trained peer educator for every 50-100 employees in Department of Defence employees. That would amount to the training of 6000 peer educators and 4000 health care professionals.

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