Southern African Leaders Meet To Discuss HIV/AIDS Among Sex Workers, MSM
Leaders from 14 member nations of the Southern African Development Community on Tuesday gathered in Blantyre, Malawi, for the third annual forum of national AIDS authorities to discuss ways to reach out to commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men to help control the spread of HIV, the SAPA/Independent Online reports. Malawi's Health Minister Marjorie Ngaunje speaking at the opening of the three-day conference said Southern African countries must break the silence surrounding HIV/AIDS in vulnerable populations. "To make advances in prevention, we must begin to tackle honestly the difficult questions that the epidemic raises ... addressing positively the needs of sex workers and of men who have sex with men." Commercial sex work "is not officially accepted in Malawi and other countries, but the truth is that it happens, and let's open up, and we need to start talking about these issues," Ngaunje added. Omotayo Olaniyan, African Union regional delegate to the SADC, told forum attendees that a lack of HIV/AIDS services for sex workers and injection drug users has fueled the spread of the epidemic among high-risk groups. He also said youth and women are more vulnerable to infection because of poverty and lack of control over their sexual rights in male-dominated societies. "These are the heart of the acceleration of the spread of HIV," Olaniyan said. The meeting also is expected to address male circumcision as a method of HIV prevention, SAPA/Independent Online reports. SADC groups from Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe are attending the conference (Mponda, SAPA/Independent Online, 12/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.