News / Africa

Senegal Vigilant Against HIV/AIDS Despite Success

A male patient lies in a ward that specializes in the treatment of AIDS at a hospital in Dakar, Senegal Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005. A male patient lies in a ward that specializes in the treatment of AIDS at a hospital in Dakar, Senegal Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005.
x
A male patient lies in a ward that specializes in the treatment of AIDS at a hospital in Dakar, Senegal Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005.
A male patient lies in a ward that specializes in the treatment of AIDS at a hospital in Dakar, Senegal Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005.
Anne Look
DAKAR – The global public health community has praised Senegal for its early and effective response to HIV/AIDS since the country reported its first cases in 1986.  For the past 15 years, infection rates have remained, on average, below one percent.  
 
In 1985, two Senegalese doctors went to see their country's president, Abdou Diouf. 
 
HIV/AIDS had only been discovered a few years earlier, and the two men had just documented an alarming 12-percent rate of infection among sex workers in Senegal, where prostitution is legal and regulated.
 
Countries with Highest Percentage of 15 to 49-year-olds living with HIV/AIDS:

1. Swaziland 25.9%
2. Botswana 24.8%
3. Lesotho 23.6%
4. South Africa 17.8%
5. Zimbabwe 14.3%
6. Zambia 13.5%
7. Namibia 13.1%
8. Mozambique 11.5%
9. Malawi 11.0%
10. Uganda 6.5%

Source: CIA World Factbook, 2009 estimates
They were Professor Souleymane Mboup, who would become world-renowned for his research on the HIV-2 strain of AIDS which is common in Africa, and Dr. Ibra Ndoye, the physician who would go on to head the National Council Against AIDS and devote his life to fighting the disease.
 
Dr. Ndoye says they presented their findings to President Diouf, who listened and then replied: "You are the experts.  We trust you and we are behind you.  Tell us what we need to do and we will do it."  Dr. Ndoye says this support was nothing short of exceptional, as it would be at least a decade before many African leaders emerged from their denial about the disease and its impact.
 
That meeting marked the beginning of what has been praised as one of the most effective HIV-prevention campaigns on the planet.  
 
Global AIDS Figures

  • People Living with HIV
    Adults - 30.1 million
    Children - 3.4 million
  • People newly infected with HIV in 2010 - 2.7 million
  • AIDS deaths in 2010 - 1.8 million

Source: WHO
In 1986, Senegal was one of the first African countries to create a National Council Against AIDS to coordinate its efforts.  The council's first order of business was to protect the nation's blood supply by putting in place systematic screening of donated blood and to train health workers about the disease.  
 
Very early on, government officials appreciated the importance of getting access to anti-retroviral drugs.  Senegal was one of the first African countries to negotiate hefty price cuts from multi-national pharmaceutical countries and to promote the use of ARVs among infected patients. 
 
Since 1997, Senegal's HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has been below one percent, even as infection rates in other African countries skyrocketed to 15, even 25, percent. 
 
Dr. Ndoye says Senegal saw early on that HIV was a very complex, even diabolical, virus.  He says they realized a vaccine was a long way off, so they focused on prevention.  He says they had the support of the government but they also enlisted civil society and religious leaders.  Senegal is a very religious, majority-Muslim country, he says, and it was key to involve the religious leaders so they would not fight against the use of condoms.   
 
Dr. Ndoye notes from the beginning, Senegal adopted what is now known as the ABC strategy: Abstinence, Be Faithful, Use a Condom.  Though religious leaders have opposed condoms, some imams now make an exception for HIV-positive people who have relations with their spouses.   
 
Senegal also became one of the first countries to integrate instruction about how to avoid contracting HIV in its secondary school curriculum.  The United Nations says cultural norms in Senegal also discourage premarital and extramarital sex.
 
Despite Senegal's low national average, rates of infection remain elevated among high-risk communities.  UNAIDS, the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, says infection rates hover over around 20 percent for female sex workers and men who have sex with men.  Homosexuality is illegal in Senegal and punishable by fines and jail time.  Homophobia has undermined prevention and screening efforts among gay men. 
 
Dr. Ndoye says Senegal, despite its successes, must remain vigilant.
 
He spoke with VOA by phone from southeastern Senegal in late June where he was wrapping up a tour of five regions that are reporting infection rates of more than one percent. 
 
Dr. Ndoye says they are there to shake things up and remind the local population and regional AIDS councils that one percent is considered the threshold level of an epidemic.  He says on a national level, they need to take the taboo out of subjects like prostitution and homosexuality to fight high rates of infection among those communities.  He says they are trying to anticipate all routes of infection - including an emerging trend of intravenous drug use - that could spread the virus to the general population. 
 
Among gold miners in the Tambacounda and Kedougou regions, for example, he says they have found infection rates of 1.3 percent.  It's a red flag, as mining communities have been hotbeds of HIV transmission in other countries, like South Africa.  
 
Dr. Ndoye says the epidemic must be attacked on all fronts and this is “no time to rest our heads on our past achievements."
 

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid