Some African cultural practices influence spread AIDS – UN report

Accra- Ghana (PANA) -- The Cultural factors in Africa, including gender inequalit ies, wife inheritance and some sexual practices, need to change and be better un d erstood if the fight against HIV/AIDS is to be more effective, according to a ne w United Nations report.
The report, issued on Monday by the UN Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (CHGA), calls for serious "discussion and action" on cultural issues whic h many societies find uncomfortable and challenging, but which determine the spre a d of HIV and undermine the effectiveness of national responses to the epidemic.
As an example, the report cites the fact that married women are at a high risk o f contracting HIV when cultural norms condone male promiscuity or patriarchal co n trol of the married couple's sexual activities.
In many African cultures, the report says, widows have very limited legal rights to claim their family property.
After the report was presented to him on Monday in New York, UN Secretary-Genera l Ban Ki-moon backed its call for action, according to a UN statement released b y the UN Information Centre in Accra.
"We must learn better to grasp how cultural norms and attitudes increase the ris k of infection.
It is why we must enforce laws to eliminate violence against wom e n and girls and take action to improve the lives of AIDS orphans," he said.
The report also argues that while some cultural norms and practices can fuel HIV transmission, others can have a positive impact.
"For example", it says, "male circumcision, which has been practiced for centuri es in some cultures and communities, has been found to decrease the risk of HIV t ransmission in men.
Challenging another assumption, the report finds that although polygamy has been thought to be one of the major factors promoting the spread of HIV in Africa, t h e evidence supporting this notion was inconsistent.
In Ghana, for instance, the prevalence of HIV infection was lowest in the north, where 44 percent of marriages are polygamous.
In a related development, the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis a nd Malaria has announced that its programmes have helped 1.
75 million people liv i ng with HIV receive lifesaving antiretroviral treatment – up by 59 per cent sinc e last year.
"We are halfway to 2015, which is the year the United Nations has set to reach t he Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," said Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Dire c tor of the Global Fund.
"So far, we are far behind the targets in reducing the mortality from AIDS, TB a nd malaria, but the results coming in over the past years give hope that we can s till catch up and reach the targets if we continue to scale up investments," he a dded.
In addition, the Global Fund reports that it has funded treatment for more than 3.
9 million people who have contracted tuberculosis, which causes up to one thir d of AIDS deaths worldwide each year.
The Fund has also delivered 59 million insecticide-treated bed nets to families at risk of malaria.
The results were released to coincide with the General Assembly's High-Level Mee ting on HIV/AIDS, which begins in New York on Tuesday.
In further remarks today, Mr.
Ban said that the global community had risen to th e occasion in response to the AIDS pandemic in African countries.
"We have seen an international movement towards universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support," he said.

10 june 2008 21:34:00

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