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.


4 dead in Waffle House shooting in southern US state; suspect sought

Updated 23 April 2018
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4 dead in Waffle House shooting in southern US state; suspect sought

NASHVILLE, US: A nearly naked gunman wearing only a green jacket and brandishing an assault rifle stormed a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville early Sunday, shooting four people to death before a customer rushed him and wrestled the weapon away.
Authorities were searching for the 29-year-old suspect, Travis Reinking, who they said drove to the busy restaurant and killed two people in the parking lot before entering and continuing to fire. When his AR-15 rifle either jammed or the clip was empty, the customer disarmed him in a scuffle.
Four people were also wounded before the gunman fled, throwing off his jacket.
Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said there was no clear motive, though Reinking may have “mental issues.” He may still be armed, Anderson told a mid-afternoon news conference, because he was known to have owned a handgun that authorities have not recovered.
US Secret Service agents arrested Reinking last July for being in a restricted area near the White House, officials said. Special Agent Todd Hudson said Reinking was detained after refusing to leave the restricted area, saying he wanted to meet President Donald Trump.
State police in Illinois, where Reinking lived until last fall, subsequently revoked his state firearms card at the request of the FBI and four guns were then taken from him, including the AR-15 used in Sunday’s shooting as well as a handgun, authorities said.
Sheriff Robert Huston in Tazewell County, Illinois, said deputies allowed Reinking’s father to take possession of the guns on the promise that he would “keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis.” Huston added that, based on past deputies’ encounters with Reinking, “there’s certainly evidence that there’s some sort of mental health issues involved.”
While Huston said it was unclear how Reinking reclaimed the guns, Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said that his father “has now acknowledged giving them back to his son.”
Phone calls to a number listed for the father, Jeffrey Reinking, went unanswered.
Meanwhile, authorities hailed the customer who intervened to stop a further bloodbath, 29-year-old James Shaw, Jr., as a hero — though the father of a 4-year-old girl demurred and said he was just trying to survive.
One hand bandaged, Shaw told reporters he first thought the gunshots fired around 3:25 a.m. were plates falling from a dishwashing station.
When he realized what was happening, he took cover behind a door as shots shattered windows. The gun either jammed or needed a new clip, and that’s when Shaw said he pounced after making up his mind that “he was going to have to work to kill me.”
Shaw said he was not a religious man, but “for a tenth of a second, something was with me to run through that door and get the gun from him.”
They cursed at each other as they scuffled, Shaw said, and he was able to grab the gun and toss it over a counter. The gunman then ran away into the dark of the working- and middle-class Antioch neighborhood of southeast Nashville.
Authorities said he shed his jacket nearby and police found two AR-15 magazines loaded with bullets in the pockets. He was seen walking, naked, on a road, officials said, but later was spotted wearing pants but no shirt after apparently returning to his apartment.
Another witness, Chuck Cordero, told The Tennessean newspaper he had stopped to get a cup of coffee and was outside the Waffle House when the chaos unfolded.
“He did not say anything,” Cordero said of the gunman, who he described as “all business.”
Cordero said Shaw saved lives. “There was plenty more people in that restaurant,” he said.
The dead were identified as 29-year-old restaurant worker Taurean C. Sanderlin, and restaurant patrons Joe R. Perez, 20, Akilah Dasilva, 23, and Deebony Groves, 21. A police statement said Sanderlin and Perez were killed outside the restaurant, Groves was fatally shot inside, and Dasilva was critically wounded inside and later died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Aaron, the police spokesman, said two of the wounded were being treated for gunshot wounds at the medical center, where spokeswoman Jennifer Wetzel said one was in critical condition and the other was in critical but stable condition.
TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center spokeswoman Katie Radel in Nashville said two people were treated for minor injuries and released.
Aaron said Reinking had been employed in construction and lived near the restaurant, and police used yellow crime scene tape to block public access to an apartment complex about a half-mile from the Waffle House. Reinking is originally from Morton, Illinois.
“This is a very sad day for the Waffle House family,” the company said in a statement on Twitter. “We ask for everyone to keep the victims and their families in their thoughts and prayers.”
Nashville Mayor David Briley described the shooting as “a tragic day” for the city.
“My heart goes out to the families & friends of every person who was killed or wounded,” Briley said in an emailed statement. “I know all of their lives will be forever changed by this devastating crime.”
US Rep. Jim Cooper, whose district includes Nashville, said in an emailed statement that the shooting shows the need for tighter restrictions on “widespread civilian access to military-grade assault weapons.”
Nashville Chief Anderson said there was no Tennessee law that would have barred Reinking from having guns, though weapons could be taken away if the suspect had serious mental health issues. That would require taking him to court and having his rights taken away because of illness, a sometimes lengthy and difficult process, Anderson said.
Police reports filed in Illinois showed past run-ins with authorities there.
In May 2016, Tazewell County deputies were called to a CVS parking lot where Reinking told officers that Taylor Swift was stalking him and hacking his phone, and that his family was also involved, according to a report released Sunday. Reinking agreed to go to a local hospital for an evaluation after repeatedly resisting the request, the report said.
Another report from the sheriff’s office said Reinking barged into a community pool in Tremont, Illinois, last June and jumped into the water wearing a pink woman’s coat over his underwear. Investigators believed he had an AR-15 rifle in his car trunk, but it was never displayed. No charges were filed.