Condoms are out there. Use them!

On 10 December the French researchers Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier got the Nobel prize for Medicine. Twenty-five years ago these scientists discovered the virus that causes aids. Where are we today?
The scientists later found out that the origin of hiv can be traced back to Africa. Luckily, the time when former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda was the only African leader who openly admitted there was indeed an aidsproblem in Africa, is far behind us now.  The figures published by the UN-Aidsprogram (UNAIDS) about Africa remain alarming nonetheless. The organization estimates that about 33 million people are infected with HIV worldwide. The number of new infections is estimated at 1.9 million in 2007, the number of fatalities estimated at 1.5 million.
Especially southern Africa is heavily confronted with the problem. In Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South-Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe about 15% of adults between the ages of 15 and 49 are HIV-positive. In Swaziland this is even 26%. Women in Africa are still the most vulnerable group – they represent about 60% of the infected population – and the number of children younger than 15 who have HIV approaches two million. On the other hand, the epidemic is stabilizing is several countries. On top of that, the number of  young pregnant women with HIV is said to be diminishing since 2001.
Sp.a senator Marleen Temmerman, professor of gynecology at Ghent University and active for years in the battle against HIV/aids in Africa: “I’m afraid the development of a vaccine won’t be happening in the very near future. The most important challenges today remain prevention and the availability of aids inhibitors. The pressure on governments will have to be augmented. I’m especially disappointed about aids prevention: we have a weapon, condoms exist, but it’s not being used. The use of condoms is not seen as normal in Africa, and it contradicts the wish to have children. On top of that, many people say that men have to leave something ‘tangible’ when the have a sexual contact. The greatest opponents of the condom are religions, churches, and the Bush-administration.
According to British epidemiologist Elisabeth Pisani, author of the book ‘Sex, drugs…& aids’, aids prevention is threatened with failure because most African countries just don’t put enough effort in it. Marleen Temmerman shares this view: “Local governments indeed have a tremendous responsibility, although we can’t generalize of course. Some countries, like Kenya for instance, are scoring better in their aids-policies than they did at the beginning of the epidemic. Uganda was once the African pearl of the battle against the epidemic, but now we see that under the influence of the churches and the Bush-administration, the use of condoms is disappearing from the prevention campaigns.” Temmerman argues in favor of using development aid as a weapon: “Governments cannot keep receiving official support, when they don’t care about their population.” (eg)

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