Financial Times Profiles HIV/AIDS Campaign in Angola
The Financial Times on Wednesday profiled efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Angola, which has maintained a much lower HIV prevalence than other Southern African countries but could see "sharp" increases from postwar conditions, according to health experts. Since 1975, Angola experienced an "on-and-off" civil war that lasted until 2002, which effectively delayed the spread of HIV by cutting off transportation routes in the country, according to the Times. The civil war also isolated the armed forces in rural areas and forced the general population to leave their villages, keeping the prevalence rate in the armed forces below the general level, Col. Francisco Joao de Deus, director of the armed forces' HIV/AIDS program, said, according to the Times. Angola now has a "chance of avoiding the mistakes others made in the 1990s, especially the failure of political leaders to grasp the scale and implications of the crisis in time," according to the Times.
Some health experts are concerned that postwar conditions in Angola could make an increase in prevalence rates "inevitable," according to the Times. Large-scale population movements that displaced one in three civilians; demobilization of soldiers; the return of refugees from Zambia, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo; illiteracy; a generalized lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS; and a collapsed health infrastructure have combined to create conditions that could lead to a marked increase in HIV transmission in the country, the Times reports. Almost one-third of Angolan women had never heard of HIV/AIDS and more than half did not know that HIV can be transmitted from mother to child, according to a recent study. Of the 500,000 to one million HIV cases in the country, only 13,000 have been reported, according to the Times. In addition, the country's HIV prevalence rate has increased from 3.4% in 1999 to 5.5% in 2001, and prevalence could increase threefold by 2010, the Times reports. "What is clear is that we must act quickly to prevent Angola from going the way of neighboring countries," Mario Ferrari, a UNICEF representative in Angola, said, adding, "We are very worried. However, the main military hospital in Luanda, Angola, is extending HIV testing and counseling and HIV/AIDS workshops are available for soldiers, in addition to camouflage-packaged condoms at no cost, the Times reports (White, Financial Times, 7/7).
UNICEF on Wednesday announced that it has distributed various HIV/AIDS training materials in Angola as part of a campaign to control the spread of the disease in the country, Xinhua News Agency reports. UNICEF distributed 3,600 playing cards with HIV/AIDS messages, 1,500 condoms and 22,000 pamphlets. The local chapter of the Red Cross of Angola and the Association of Preserving the Environment of Integrated and Rural Development also received 33 books about HIV/AIDS care and 20 copies of UNICEF's strategic plan. According to UNICEF Health Officer Ana Neves, the organization will also host seminars and promote awareness campaigns to inform the population about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (Xinhua News Agency, 7/7).