Angola To Increase HIV Prevention Efforts Following Opening of Country’s Borders After 27-Year Civil War
The Angolan government will carry out an HIV awareness campaign and provide no-cost HIV testing and treatment in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus in the country, which has been largely unaffected by the disease because of a 27-year civil war that prevented travel in and out of the country, Reuters reports.
According to government figures, Angola has an HIV prevalence of 2.1%, which is much lower than other countries in the region. Health Minister Jose Van-Dunem said he is concerned the rebuilding of destroyed roads and bridges could lead to increased HIV prevalence as movement of people from neighboring countries increases. Van-Dunem said, "The borders are open, there is movement of people to both sides of the border, which increases the possibility of AIDS infection." He added that the "fight against AIDS is the priority of priorities." According to Reuters, the Angolan government has also pledged to spend more than one-third of its $42 billion budget for 2009 on health, education and fighting poverty.
Reuters reports that there has been an HIV/AIDS outbreak in Angola's southern Cunene province, which borders Namibia, where one in five people are believed to be HIV-positive. The Angolan Network of AIDS Service Organizations reports that approximately 16% of people living in the Cunene province have contracted the virus. Other provinces in the northern part of the country that border the Democratic Republic of the Congo also have experienced a steady increase in HIV/AIDS cases, Reuters reports. In addition, two-thirds of Angolan women give birth before reaching age 20, indicating rising sexual activity among young people and the country's extreme poverty, both of which could contribute to increased HIV.
Although Van-Dunem said he acknowledges the threat of HIV/AIDS in the country, he said government efforts to contain the disease have been successful. "What is happening is that people today are more open about AIDS since they now have more access to treatment," he said (Almeida, Reuters, 11/10).