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US Gives Ivory Coast $42 Million to Fight AIDS

  • Gabi Menezes

The U.S. government is giving $42 million to Ivory Coast to help treat and prevent HIV-AIDS. The current HIV-AIDS prevalence in the country is about 7 percent, but health workers believe conflict between rebels and government forces has increased the spread of the virus.

The $42 million in funding was announced by U.S. officials last week in Ivory Coast. The money is part of a five-year, $15 billion commitment by the United States to fight HIV-AIDS around the world. Fifteen of the most affected countries in the world will receive money from the the Bush administration's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In West Africa, Nigeria and Ivory Coast are both beneficiaries.

Dr. Monica Nolan, the technical coordinator of the U.S. AIDS program in Ivory Coast, says it is likely that conflict in the divided country has increased transmission of HIV, the virus which causes the AIDS.

"In the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire where you have had large-scale displacements of populations internally as well as across borders, you have got large scale deployment of various military forces," she said. "You have got increasing poverty of young girls and so on. There are certainly many factors which exacerbate HIV transmission."

At an AIDS treatment center, in a poor suburb of the Ivorian commercial capital Abidjan, Dr. Siaka Toure has noticed an increase in the numbers of people coming to the center, who are infected with HIV. He says many of them have come to Abidjan, which lies in the government controlled south, from the rebel held north of the country.

Dr. Toure says that it is difficult to develop care for aids patients in the north, which many health workers fled when fighting broke out in September 2002.

"We think there will be two wars," he said. "The first war that we know. The second will be the HIV consequence, especially in the area where we cannot develop a care for HIV."

Although there is an increased prevalence of HIV-AIDS in the country, some people feel there is also less stigma attached to the disease. Adolf Juilai, who had just done an HIV blood test at the center, says things have changed.

"You know before when you have it, they say that everybody rejects you," he said. "Nobody wants to approach you because they do not know exactly what it is. But by now they have to take their heart and do their test to know their situation. If you know, you are not going to die quickly."

Mr. Juilai's brother died of AIDS. Since his death, Mr. Juilai and a friend come to the clinic every year to take an AIDS test. They will find out the results of their latest test Friday.

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