New Bridge Linking Namibia, Zambia Could Facilitate Spread of HIV in Southern African Countries
The Boston Globe on Tuesday examined the potential effects of a new bridge that is being built over the Zambezi River between Zambia and Namibia, as country borders in Southern Africa "fuel the spread of HIV to rates higher than anywhere else in the world." The bridge, which is expected to open in about a month, will provide a new route for long-distance truckers traveling from South Africa to the Congo, as well as create jobs and bring investment to the Namibian town of Katima, which has an 80% unemployment rate. However, health care workers and others worry that the bridge also will facilitate the spread of HIV. "We'll have truck drivers from all over the continent after the bridge opens," Bertus Coetzee, who owns the Mukusi Cabins, a lodge and restaurant in Katima, said, adding, "They will come in here with good bucks, they got girlfriends all over. Any young girl or boy in his 20s in this area is unlikely to have a job. How are they going to make money? Sex. It's the easiest way." Coetzee and others said that in order to prevent the spread of the virus, young people must find jobs and become educated about HIV prevention and the "dangers of unsafe sex," according to the Globe. Last year, 43% of pregnant women at a prenatal clinic tested HIV-positive in Katima -- a town of 20,000 people that sits just 50 miles from the intersection of Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Although Namibian President Sam Nujoma has spoken out about HIV/AIDS, the stigma surrounding the disease is still a problem, according to the Globe. Jane Wachila, director of the Katima office of Catholic AIDS Action, which has been involved with AIDS work for several years, said, "We have a very big challenge. Now we have the bridge, and I wonder about the outcome. We don't know where we're headed" (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 2/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.