AIDS Prevention Work in Mozambique Stunted by Poverty, Taboo, ‘Willful’ Ignorance
HIV prevention efforts in Mozambique have been hindered by poverty, taboo and sometimes "willfu[l]" ignorance, Reuters reports. An average of 600 to 700 people a day are infected with HIV in the nation, which has 17 million citizens. Mozambique is among the world's poorest nations, where most people have never seen and do not know how to use condoms. In addition, it is considered taboo to talk openly about sex, and many people doubt the existence of HIV/AIDS, making it more difficult to alter sexual behavior. "There is no proof. I only heard that it's the most dreaded disease and it is incurable before it kills. I want to see someone (with AIDS), then I'll believe," trader Mario Luciano said, adding that he won't use condoms because "How can I take a shower wearing a raincoat?"
Using Alternative Prevention Methods
Salama, a nongovernmental organization whose name means "good health" in the local language, is attempting to use nontraditional methods to spread HIV prevention information. The organization, which has 50 volunteers in northern Mozambique, trains women and midwives on HIV/AIDS information and uses theatrical productions, charts and brochures to disseminate prevention information in communities. Salama does not focus exclusively on HIV but addresses other STDs, child mortality and family planning, which has aided the organization in spreading the prevention message. "Gonorrhea and syphilis are the most widespread STD infections here and they lay the foundations for our activities," Executive Director Micael Sale explained. Others use social opportunities such as "drinking sprees," where taboos may be relaxed, to engage in a dialogue about sex and HIV. A Salama worker in Cunle said, "Taboos and other traditional factors are still major hiccups but this will iron out as time goes by. They secretly come to us and ask for condoms and information related to STDs and AIDS." With the aid of NGOs, the government has developed a National Strategic Plan to battle HIV/AIDS that calls for a coordinated effort from the departments of health, education, social welfare, agriculture, transportation, rural development and defense. The government is particularly worried that HIV rates will increase as economic agreements made with South Africa, the country with the world's most HIV cases, facilitate contact between the two nations (Mangwiro, Reuters, 11/19).