This year marks the 25th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic. While the disease is rising sharply in Russia, China and India, most of those who’ve been infected by the AIDS virus, HIV, are in Africa. What more can the continent do to stop the pandemic? The Africa correspondent for the Boston Globe newspaper has come up with some recommendations.
John Donnelly says he based his ten recommendations on the hundreds of health-related interviews he’s done over the past three years. The fist two recommendations relate to getting tested for HIV.
“Testing should be part of regular health checkups. And I also suggest that couples should go in and test together. And even couples who don’t known each other that well, go in and test together because they can both see the results at the same time,” he says.
Donnelly says male circumcision should be promoted, pointing out that studies have shown that it can help prevent the transmission of HIV.
He also suggests changes in public health messages.
“The public messages should be far more focusing on abstinence for young people and being faithful in relationships. And not to use condom billboards and instead put condoms everywhere in places you can easily find them. But just not confuse the message with promoting condom use,” he says.
He says billboard, radio and TV ads on condoms can undercut abstinence and faithfulness messages.
The Boston Globe correspondent says because unemployment in many African countries is so high, young people have time on their hands and may be more likely to engage in risky behavior. Donnelly suggests putting more money and resources into sports programs.
He says, “It would involve things like paying for coaches. It would involve some equipment, like footballs and football nets and basketball courts and maybe a few buildings here and there. But the cost of something like that would really pale in comparison to what it costs to now treat someone who’s infected with HIV.”
He also recommends greater enforcement of drinking laws.
“Everywhere I go in Africa, one of the riskiest times is late at night with young people out and older people out drinking and their judgment is impaired and they often have unprotected sex. Drinking laws in many places is 11 o’clock at night, but I see bars open all over Africa three, four, five in the morning,” he says.
The journalist’s remaining recommendations include ensuring there’s widespread use of anti-retroviral drugs to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to newborns. He proposes encouraging men to better communicate with each other about domestic violence and rape and work with traditional leaders to promote a culture of respect for women.
He also calls for building a greater network of hospice workers to care for many of the terminally ill AIDS patients. And finally he recommends better training of journalists to report on HIV/AIDS, especially those working in radio, because they reach hundreds of millions of Africans.