Post-Conflict Recovery Affecting Fight Against HIV/AIDS in Liberia
Post-conflict recovery is affecting efforts to fight the spread of HIV in the Liberian town of Ganta, which has become "emblematic of the AIDS challenge facing the country" as it recovers from a 14-year civil war, PlusNews reports. According to PlusNews, Ganta is the "hub of trade and travel" with neighboring countries Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire, and the factors fueling its reconstruction also threaten to jeopardize its long-term stability. Albert Willicor, a physician at Ganta United Methodist Hospital, said health workers expect an increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases because of the constant flow of visitors and the town's increasing population. The Rev. John Togba, an HIV/AIDS counselor at the hospital, also said the country's civil war and the resulting poverty and unemployment has had a "deep psychological impact," creating significant obstacles to efforts aimed at introducing HIV/AIDS awareness and education campaigns. The lack of condom availability and use, large numbers of returning refugees and limited availability of antiretroviral drugs also might be fueling the spread of HIV, according to PlusNews. There are no national HIV prevalence figures for Liberia, but health workers estimate it ranges from 5% to 10%. In addition, stigma must be addressed in order to control the spread of HIV, PlusNews reports. Willicor over the past year has been preparing to roll out a treatment program at the Methodist Hospital, but the initiative was postponed in October when the first person selected to receive treatment declined to participate. "What's needed is more education, done with patience, and it has to be persistent," Togba said, adding, "The schools have to be involved and the churches, too, and we also need visual AIDS: talking is effective but seeing is more effective" (PlusNews, 11/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.