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Caravan Travels West Africa to Focus on HIV Testing, Education


The Love Life Caravan is passing through Benin, as it travels the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor. The almost month-long campaign attempts to educate people along the corridor about HIV and AIDS. Ricci Shryock has more from Dakar.

Men play drums, while dozens of people dance on the stage at the Love Life Caravan in Cotonou. The more than 1,000 people in attendance in the capital city of Benin listened to traditional Adjogan music, as part of the HIV and AIDS outreach program.

The celebration is part of the Love Life Caravan, which is visiting five countries as it travels from Lagos, Nigeria to Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Its goal is educating, testing and counseling people about HIV and AIDS.

The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Organization, which launched this caravan project five years ago, has seen good results from its efforts, so says the organization's executive secretary Justin Koffi.

"We are very confident that we have sharply increased the level of knowledge - also attitudes and behavior," he said. "We have made condoms available. And, we also have made the voluntary in-country testing available."

He says they intend to distribute more then two million female and male condoms and that their testing numbers are already high.

"Within this month of May, we have tested more than 50,000 of our fellows, which is a tremendous achievement." Koffi said.

Cotonou resident Dubal Kounou François, who has been HIV positive for 15 years, is traveling with the caravan. He says the testing and education efforts are good, but the fight does not stop there. He says West African communities need to work to accept those who are now living with HIV.

Francois told the crowd in Cotonou that using condoms and being faithful to their partners was important to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The Love Life Caravan plans to stop at 17 sites along the journey, which will end at Abidjan later this month.

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