Former Fighters in D.R.C.’s Civil War Face High HIV Prevalence, Receive HIV Services With Reintegration Programs
Former combatants in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are "coming to terms with the unseen danger of HIV" as they reintegrate into society, IRIN News/AllAfrica.com reports. More than 10 years of fighting among rebels, Congolese militia and the national army is believed to have fueled the spread of the virus in eastern D.R.C. and undermined health services, according to IRIN News/AllAfrica.com. Roughly 180,000 former fighters are expected to enter disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs that include HIV/AIDS education, but there are "fears that the short instruction period will be of small benefit" and HIV cases will increase as combatants return to rural areas, IRIN News/AllAfrica.com reports. At the Kabare reorientation center in South Kivu Province -- which is operated by the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reinsertion -- HIV programs aim to raise awareness and educate former fighters about how the virus is transmitted, as well as why former combatants are particularly vulnerable to transmission. Brigitte Bampile, head of voluntary counseling and testing at the Kabare center, said that the main aim of the center is to help the former fighters know their HIV status and that the center's second priority is to change their sexual behavior. Statistics from the center indicate that 5% of former fighters who take HIV tests have the virus, but some have disputed the figure, IRIN News/AllAfrica.com reports. "Look at the neighboring countries," Rebecca Adlington, medical supervisor for Medecins Sans Frontieres, said, adding that HIV prevalence in the Tanzanian and Ugandan armed forces is about 15% and 10%, respectively. "Since there is no intervention on prevention, care and treatment (in the Congolese militias), the true figure is likely to be higher than 5%," she said. According to Bampile, HIV tests among former combatants are voluntary, and mandatory HIV testing likely will not be implemented (IRIN News/AllAfrica.com, 11/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.