Mobility Brings Business, AIDS to Towns in Niger
In Niger, prostitution and transient populations have increased the number of HIV-positive people in some cities, Reuters reports. Immigrants from neighboring Nigeria, where strict Islamic laws prohibit premarital sex and alcohol consumption, have increasingly arrived in the Nigerois city of Firgi looking for "gambling, sex and drinking." The town, a "haven for prostitutes," is now experiencing an economic "boom" along with an increase in the number of people with HIV/AIDS. One in three of the 200 Firgi prostitutes recently tested by public health workers were HIV-positive, Regional Director of Public Health Hassane Moctar said. Although Firgi's 30% infection rate is "an exception" in the country, it is also "a good example of the conditions that health workers fear will lead to a greater spread of the disease." However, Fouraya Ibrahim, a representative for the Firgi prostitutes, denies AIDS exists in Firgi, saying that the women "take precautions" and use condoms, which are distributed by public health nurses. One prostitute, Aicha Ibrahim, who had seen the public health office's AIDS awareness educational videos, said it was difficult to get clients to agree to wear condoms. "Even if we insist, they refuse or pull it off. They will take away the money if you insist," she said. Moctar, whose public health team is based in a town 25 miles from Firgi, said that they can do "little" more than educate the women, continue to provide condoms and monitor the situation. Niger's overall AIDS rate is 1.4% -- low when compared with neighboring West African countries. However, 15.4% of the prostitutes in Niger's capital city, Niamey, recently tested HIV-positive, according to a World Bank study (Chonghaile, Reuters, 1/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.