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 Thursday 09 August 2007
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CONGO: Isolated Sangha region falls off the map

Photo: André Itoua/IRIN
HIV/AIDS educators trained in Pikounda
PIKOUNDA, 29 September 2006 (PlusNews) - Isolated and hard to reach, rural areas in the Sangha region in the north of the Republic of Congo have fallen off the map in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.

About a decade ago, the Pikounda region along the Sangha River, a tributary of the Congo River, was visited regularly by shuttles chartered by Agence Transcongolaise des Communications (ATC), a parastatal transport company. But since the bankruptcy of the river transport section of the ATC, traffic using the river port is irregular, while much of the region's road network is often unusable.

This has hampered initiatives to curb the spread of the pandemic, and although the HIV prevalence rate for the region is estimated at 3.9 percent, experts fear it could climb.

The National AIDS Council (CNLS) recently trained about 30 facilitators to educate communities about the pandemic but they are not being fully utilised. One of them, Mbilo Ayebato, said he has become frustrated by the inaccessibility of some parts of Pikounda.

Gabriel Ewounga, chairman of a local youth NGO told PlusNews, "If we could manage to travel by road, especially the one linking Pikounda to the village of Ekouomou, 65km away, we could go on foot or use the motorbike made available to us ... but we can't do anything because boats come very rarely."

The number of cases of sexually transmitted infections has been rising because of risky sexual behaviour, said Célestin Ngakosso, who was appointed head nurse of the integrated health centre (IHC) at Pikounda two years ago. Since his arrival at the clinic, "of the 250 condoms for sale at the IHC [at US$0.05 each], only 50 have been sold.

Ngakosso was worried that myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS were fuelling its spread, as many people believed that it only affected people in urban areas.

The lack of HIV testing centres - the nearest one is 120km away in Pokola - made things worse, as few people knew their status. But with no antiretroviral treatment available in Sangha, it would be pointless for people to know their status, he added.

"Several months ago, I saw two women who were already showing signs of [AIDS-related illness]," Ngakosso recalled. "I did what I could with what I had, but the last I heard was that one of them found her health was deteriorating, and then she died. The other one must be bedridden by now, as she is not receiving the treatment she needs."

Theme(s): (IRIN) Care/Treatment - PlusNews


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