Tuesday, March 29, 2005

HIV on the rise in Guinea

For decades under the Sékou Touré dictatorship, Guinea was a closed country with people not easily able to leave the country and even less easily able to return. Ironically, one of the positive effects of this isolation was that the country had a relative low rate of HIV infection, unlike its more open, prosperous and immigrant-heavy neighbor Côte d'Ivoire.

But the virus apparently on the rise in Guinea, according to an IRIN article.

A new sentinel survey of pregnant women who underwent voluntary AIDS testing in maternity clincs, indicates that 4.3 percent of Guinea's adult population is infected with HIV, according to work done by the country's anti-AIDS council and the German development organization GTZ. That represents a big jump from the figure of 2.8 percent suggested by the previous sentinel survey carried out in 2001.

Though it's worth noting that testing was done in maternity clinics in the capital Conakry and the large interior cities Mamou, Labe, Kankan and N'Zérékoré.

However, health workers in Guinea told IRIN that it showed a big fluctuation in HIV prevalence rates between different parts of the West African country. While infection rates were generally higher in the main towns, they reached a peak of over 13 percent in the rural area around the southeastern town of Nzerekore, they noted.

There is a large refugee population in and around N'Zérékoré, as a result of the Liberian and Ivorian civil wars.

This 2000 documentary from Radio Netherlands, The Tattered Welcome Mat, explored the difficulties faced by Guineans in parts of the country inhabited by large populations of refugees.

Update: This feature on the UN's IRIN service also explores the problems caused by the refugee surge in the Guinean Forest region


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