Love hotels targeted to fight HIV among Cameroon teens

In this file photo taken on November 30, 2012 shows HIV positive women making red ribbons, the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV, at a support centre in Bangalore on the eve of World AIDS Day. Some 6,000 global HIV experts gather in Paris from July 23, 2017 to take stock of advances in AIDS science as fading hopes of unlocking a cure has shifted research into creative new fields. (AFP)
Updated 06 August 2017
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Love hotels targeted to fight HIV among Cameroon teens

GUIDER, Cameroon: The two big maps show the districts of the northern Cameroonian town of Guider along with its brothels, nightclubs and other seedy spots to identify places from where AIDS could spread among adolescents.
Cameroon, a country of 23 million that hugs Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world.
“The maps highlight the high-risk zones for transmission,” said Boris Mbaho Tchaptchet, 21, speaking at a local youth club.
“We located the love hotels, the video clubs, the cabarets, the underground meeting places before putting into place an action and prevention plan in our community,” he said.
The club in Guider was one of those selected for the “All In! End Aids among Adolescents” project launched in August 2015 with the backing of the UN children’s agency UNICEF.
According to official figures, 79,771 children and adolescents are HIV-positive, but experts say it is much higher.
“This platform brings together all the interventions fighting HIV in the country targeting young people,” said Jules Ngwa Edielle, who runs the HIV prevention in Cameroon’s Youth and Civic Education Ministry.
It ropes in local administrative, political and religious authorities to fight the disease. With his colleagues, 21-year-old Bouba Saliou was trained as a peer-group educator in his neighborhood.
“My role is to talk with other young people, ask them questions to understand their situation and to encourage them to get tested,” he explained.
But broaching the delicate issue is not without its pitfalls.
“Some people react saying, ‘You think I’m sick? Have you ever seen me having sexual relations?’
“Others simply refuse, saying that they are confident about their status. But I try to convince anyway,” he added with smile.
Saliou cites the case of a 17-year-old who found out he was HIV-positive because of his intervention.
“He was very angry at me when he got the results,” he recalled. “But today we talk regularly and he tells he is following his treatment regularly.”
This community-based approach is essential if Cameroon is to attain the 90-90-90 target set by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which Cameroon signed up to back in 2015.
The aim is to get to the point where 90 percent of those who are HIV-positive know about their condition; where 90 percent of those who know are on retroviral treatment; and where 90 percent of those receiving that treatment achieve viral suppression.
The hope is to be able to wipe out the virus by 2030.
Therese Nduwimana, who runs UNICEF Cameroon’s HIV unit, said the program had proved its worth in the north of the country with the No Limit for Women Project (Nolfowop).
“With a budget of just $40,000 a year the results have been spectacular,” she said.
“In just months, the number of HIV-positive children identified has been multiplied by four,” she said.
However, one of the problems is an acute shortage of medical staff. The hospital in Garoua, which serves an area with 2.7 million people, only has one pediatric and one gynecologist.
A group of around 30 women were gathered at one of the town’s health centers, waiting to be tested about their HIV status. The result is announced almost immediately.
“Our volunteers have gone door to door to encourage every pregnant woman to get tested,” said Odette Etame, who heads the Nolfowop project.
Other mothers acting as mentors then made home visits to physically accompany HIV-positive women and their children for anti-retroviral treatment, she added.
This was one way to reach people who would other wise be lost from view, she said.
Cameroon had a 5.75-percent HIV prevalence rate for pregnant women in 2016, making it one of the 10 countries responsible for 75 percent of new pediatric infections worldwide.


Families bury victims as Tanzania ferry disaster toll passes 200

Updated 23 September 2018
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Families bury victims as Tanzania ferry disaster toll passes 200

  • Divers were also set to continue their grim search in the waters around the boat
  • With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometers, Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya

UKARA, Tanzania: Grieving families were on Sunday preparing to bury victims of Tanzania’s devastating ferry disaster, with more than 200 confirmed dead after the crowded boat capsized in Lake Victoria.
Hopes were fading of finding any more survivors three days after the ferry sank on Thursday, even after rescuers pulled out an engineer who had managed to find refuge in an air pocket in the upturned vessel.
“We are going to start burying bodies not yet identified by relatives,” said John Mongella, governor of Mwanza region, where the MV Nyerere ferry had been coming in to dock on the island of Ukara.
“The (burial) ceremony will be overseen by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, in the presence of clergy members of different denominations,” Mongella said Saturday on TBC 1 public television.
Divers were also set to continue their grim search in the waters around the boat, where late Saturday they were watched by anxious crowds gathered just meters (yards) away on Ukara’s shore.
Mongella said 218 people had been confirmed dead, while 41 escaped the tragedy with their lives — a total figure far above the official capacity of the boat, which was in theory only able to carry 101 passengers.
One survivor was an engineer who shut himself into a “special room” with enough air for him to stay alive until he was found, said local lawmaker Joseph Mkundi.
Transport Minister Isack Kamwelwe said on Saturday that 172 of the victim’s bodies had been identified by relatives.
State television cited witnesses reporting that more than 200 people had boarded the ferry at Bugolora, a town on the larger Ukerewe Island. It was market day, which usually sees the vessel packed with people and goods.
Witnesses told AFP the ferry sank when passengers rushed to one side to disembark as it approached the dock. Others blamed the captain, saying he had made a brusque maneuver.
Dozens of wooden coffins lined the shore on Saturday, waiting to be seen by families as police and volunteers sought to keep hundreds of curious locals at bay.
Aisha William came to collect the body of her husband. “He left on Tuesday around noon, but he never came home. I do not know how I am going to raise my two children,” she said.
Ahmed Caleb, a 27-year-old trader, railed at a tragedy “which could have been prevented. I’ve lost my boss, friends, people I went to school with,” he sighed.
The aging vessel, whose hull and propellers were all that remained visible above water, was also carrying cargo, including sacks of maize, bananas and cement, when it capsized.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday ordered the arrest of the ferry’s management and declared four days of national mourning.
In a speech broadcast on TBC 1, Magufuli said “it appears clear that the ferry was overloaded,” adding that the government would cover the funeral expenses of the victims.
With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometers, oval-shaped Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
It is not uncommon for ferries to capsize in the lake, and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that many people in the region cannot swim.