War in Cote d’Ivoire Exacerbates Spread of HIV/AIDS
The war in Cote d'Ivoire has impeded efforts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country and the city of Bouake and "threatens to encourage" the spread of the disease, exacerbating the AIDS crisis in a "part of the worst-affected continent that has so far gotten off fairly lightly," compared with Southern or East Africa, Reuters reports. There have been reports of rapes by combatants on both sides of the war in the western part of the country, and more than one million people have been displaced from their homes, which could help spread the disease outside of Cote d'Ivoire's borders to Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso, Reuters reports. Pierre Mpele, head of UNAIDS for West and Central Africa, said, "Ivory Coast was already the country with the highest rate of infection in this region. Crisis situations help to spread HIV/AIDS and if it continues any longer then we fear that we will start to see an impact in the region because of the movements of people." Mpele also said that the Cote d'Ivoire situation makes "the young and women particularly vulnerable" to infection, adding, "The health infrastructure is gone in some areas, there is violence, there is an increased likelihood of rape and the behavior of young people has changed because of the war and has put them at greater risk." Penda Toure, who runs an HIV/AIDS program in Bouake, said, "There are no condoms in town even if people want to use them and people cannot hold on forever. There is no money for campaigns to persuade people of the dangers," adding, "We have the impression here that we are not going back to zero [when the war is over], but well below zero" (Tostevin, Reuters, 3/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.