HIV/AIDS Campaigns Emphasize Understanding Of Local HIV Situations

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Inter Press Service on Saturday examined a new emphasis of HIV/AIDS campaigns that focuses on "knowing your epidemic" by analyzing the local HIV/AIDS situation through specific factors that drive the epidemic. The approach helps advocates accurately determine who is HIV-positive and how to address the epidemic successfully with certain populations, Inter Press Service reports.

Inter Press Service cited a Rwandan initiative that involves male partners in the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission as an example of the approach. Anita Asiimwe, executive secretary of Rwanda's National AIDS Control Commission, said the initiative has led to an increase in the number of women who visit prenatal clinics and a decrease in stigma related to HIV/AIDS.

According to Asiimwe, male partners are able to "protect [the women] from the other members of the family or society" after they understand why women are taking steps to prevent MTCT, such as choosing to not breastfeed. Asiimwe said that up to 64% of male partners accompany their pregnant partners to prenatal clinics today, compared to 6% in 2004. In addition, government statistics show that AIDS prevalence in Rwanda fell from 7% in 2000 to 3% in 2008 and that nearly 90% of infants born to HIV-positive women do not have the virus, compared with less than 40% in 2007.


According to Inter Press Service, the news from some countries, such as Kenya, is "not so encouraging." Kenya is experiencing an increase in HIV/AIDS prevalence because the country's prevention strategy does not effectively target specific high-risk groups that appear to be driving the epidemic, according to health experts. The 2007 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey found HIV prevalence was 7.8% at the end of 2008, an increase from a 2003 Kenya demographic health survey that showed a prevalence of 6.7%. In reaction to the data, the focus of prevention methods in Kenya is shifting from HIV awareness in the general population to efforts that target specific groups, such as commercial sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men and injection drug users.

Omu Anzala, director of the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said it is "not good enough to just continue talking" about voluntary HIV testing and counseling," adding that "we must now begin to look at individuals who fall into high-risk groups and be able to target preventable strategies to these specific groups."

Berhane Kelkay, head of the National Network of Positive Women in Ethiopia, said there has been some success from efforts to involve women in HIV services in the country. Although HIV prevalence among Ethiopian men is 2.2%, prevalence is about 20% higher among women in the country, Kelkay said. She said the high prevalence among women is because of early arranged marriages; violence, including abduction, rape and female circumcision; and "rampant" commercial sex work in many areas of the country. Kelkay said that there is "indeed an achievement from our campaign," noting that in 2006 she was the only female head of an HIV/AIDS group but that all of the 22 groups in NNPW are now led by women (Kharsany, Inter Press Service, 1/10).

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