Condom Distribution Program Turns Ethiopian Soldiers Into Messengers of AIDS Awareness
The Ethiopian army, which in 1997 teamed up with an American not-for-profit organization to help prevent HIV infection among its soldiers, is deploying tens of thousands of demobilized soldiers across the country to bring messages of safe sex and HIV prevention to their home communities, the Baltimore Sun reports. The "unusual relationship" between the army and DKT International, a "social marketing" organization that promotes AIDS awareness and family planning, "might soon be duplicated across Africa," the Sun reports. The soldiers, who have received years of AIDS education, are supplied condoms with every paycheck and are prohibited from leaving military bases unless they are carrying condoms, will "carr[y] the message and practice of safe sex" to millions of other Ethiopians. According to UNAIDS, the Ethiopian army has a high condom use rate and a low HIV infection rate, 85% and 5%, respectively. The HIV infection rates among many other African nations' armies "often soar to 30% or 40%." The Sun states that the "success of DKT in reaching rural areas, plus its extraordinary partnership with the Ethiopian army, have convinced many observers that social marketing can and should play a very big role in the future fight against AIDS" in Africa (Tidwell, Baltimore Sun, 3/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.