Conditions Along Oil Pipeline Construction Route in Cameroon, Chad Ideal for HIV Spread, Health Experts Say
A lack of adequate health care and an increase in migration and prostitution that has accompanied the construction of a $3.7 billion oil pipeline route in Cameroon and Chad have created ideal conditions for the spread of HIV, the Los Angeles Times reports in the second article in a two-part series on the pipeline. Settlements of people working on or seeking jobs on the pipeline have sprung up along the 670-mile route, which will connect ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and Petronas oil fields in Chad with the Atlantic coast in Cameroon. Although there is no way to measure the HIV/AIDS problem in southern Chad because clinics do not have HIV testing capabilities, health experts have observed a "sharp rise" in symptoms of other sexually transmitted diseases, which can provide a "rough gauge" of HIV incidence, according to the Times. Bill Jobin, a health consultant hired to analyze the pipeline's likely impact on the AIDS epidemic in the area, said that AIDS was the "hottest health issue of the project," and he urged ExxonMobil to treat HIV-positive employees. The company called the cost of such a program "prohibitive" and said that health care was the responsibility of the Chadian government with whom they were sharing oil profits. Instead, the World Bank and the consortium of oil companies building the pipeline sponsored a prevention program that aimed to curb prostitution, increase condom usage and treat STDs that increase the risk of transmitting HIV. Under the plan, the governments of Chad and Cameroon are responsible for identifying and treating people who contracted HIV while working on the project, but the "underfunded and mostly ineffective" AIDS programs have done little to meet this goal, according to the Times. Jobin predicted that HIV will spread further into surrounding communities now that the construction is nearing completion and HIV-positive truck drivers, workers and prostitutes move back to other parts of Chad or travel to Angola, the Central African Republic and their other countries of origin (Silverstein, Los Angeles Times, 6/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.