Monday, December 01, 2008

World AIDS Day and Guinea

From Friends of Guinea blog (reprinted with permission)

In the run up to International AIDS day, the UN's IRIN news service had several articles related to AIDS in Guinea and West Africa.

IRIN reports that Guinea's mining sector is stepping up its anti-AIDS efforts. With an HIV infection rate of 5.2 per cent, the lucrative mining sector in Guinea is particularly at risk from the epidemic. Some mining companies have begun setting up their own programmes to make up for the lack of HIV/AIDS services on offer. But they say a public-private partnership is essential if local residents are not to be excluded. This is important as HIV services now tend to be concentrated in the capital Conakry, some distance away from the main mining regions.

Another piece points out that antiretroviral treatments are now free in Guinean hospitals. This is an important step in Guinea, such treatments cost patients $100 a month or sufferers were forced to travel to Dakar, Senegal. However, the article warns that bureaucratic difficulties may hamper the campaign's efficiency.

IRIN also had a fascinating piece on how national legislation designed to slow the spread of AIDS in West Africa is a double-edged sword.

In places like Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Niger, a woman can be criminally charged with not taking the steps necessary to prevent HIV transmission to her unborn baby, such as taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs during pregnancy. Sierra Leone recently changed a legal provision that explicitly referred to a mother passing on the virus to her baby as a crime.

In Togo, people who do not use male or female condoms in "all risky sexual relations" are considered to be breaking the law; HIV-positive people are prohibited from having unprotected sex, regardless of whether they have disclosed their status to their partner.

Guinean law requires mandatory HIV testing before marriage, while Togolese law provides for periodic mandatory testing of sex workers for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

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