Mozambique launches new HIV preventive strategy

Maputo- Mozambique (PANA) -- Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Monday launc hed a new "Strategy to Accelerate Prevention of HIV Infection" in the country.
Launched on World AIDS Day, the strategy is the government's response to the nee d to control the spread of AIDS in Mozambique, and to reduce the number of new i n fections.
Latest statistics indicate that 16 per cent of Mozambicans, aged between 15 and 49, are infected with HIV.
The epidemic shows signs of stabilizing in the centre and north of the country, but is continuing to advance in the south.
The worst hit province is Gaza with an HIV prevalence rate of 27 per cent.
The strategy document states that the key factor in the spread of AIDS is "the e xistence of concomitant sexual relations with multiple partners with little or n o use of condoms".
Contributory factors include gender and economic inequalities, high population m obility, alcohol and drug abuse, and failure to discuss sexuality, sex and AIDS i nside the family.
The strategy lists the "priority areas of action" in the following order -- heal th counselling and testing, condoms, high risk groups, early detection and treat m ent of sexually transmitted infections, male circumcision, prevention of mother- t o-child HIV transmission, access to anti-retroviral treatment, and bio-security ( the safety of hospital equipment and blood supply).
The document admits that previous attempts to increase condom use have run up ag ainst "cultural and religious barriers" and an ideology of male supremacy.
But there have also been failures in distributing condoms particularly in the co untryside, while selling them, rather than giving them away, tends to reduce acc e ss.
The messages about condoms, it adds, have been "inadequate to the reality of soc io-cultural values", and failed to address different age groups.
So the strategy calls for a radical rethink on how to popularise condoms and for the production of "communication materials appropriate to the Mozambican contex t , for both male and female condoms, including material to be used by community l e aders and counsellors in initiation rites".
The logistical capacity to distribute condoms must be improved, and priority sho uld be given to reaching highly mobile groups in the country's "development corr i dors" that radiate out from the main ports to the countries of the hinterland.
Speaking at the launch of the strategy, Guebuza stressed the role of leadership in making citizens aware of the need for "positive behaviour" as the only way to overcome the epidemic.
"Leadership should bring us to understand the fact that, since there is still no cure for this scourge, it can only be beaten if we adopt behaviour and attitude s that remove the possibility that we will become infected or that we can infect o thers", he said.
Prevention, he added, was cheap, available and within everybody's reach.
Victory was possible, and there were already "examples of good practices which c an be replicated".
Guebuza said that, despite the apparent stabilization of the epidemic between th e epidemiological surveillance rounds of 2004 and 2007, in no province had there been a sharp reduction.

01 december 2008 16:34:00

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