Author: M. G.
Journalist Jason Kane reported his experience in Tanzania together with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in an amazing article on PBS Newshour website. He lists some of the main factors that contrast an effective halt of the HIV epidemic in African countries - and not only there. This article reports some real life experiences that can't be taken as a generalization of the situation in Africa, but certainly show what's HIV prevention in these areas of the world.
The ‘key population' - sex workers, drug injectors, men who have sex with men - sees the higher risk of both infection and transmission of the HIV virus. In low- and middle-income countries, men who have sex with men and female sex workers are 19 and 13.5 times more likely -respectively- to have HIV than their peers. To deal with the HIV epidemic, taking care of individuals at a high risk is not a priority only in countries with low HIV-infection rates - as some say - but it's something fundamental everywhere. In fact, a typical pattern of infection can be when somebody has unsafe sex both with a HIV+ sex worker and then with somebody from the ‘normal' population.
Sadly, when it comes to help categories like sex workers, morals play a role in a government's decision process: should you just be more severe with this illegal activity, or close an eye and actually help these people to stay healthy? Besides, this is not the only problem. For instance, even if Tanzania decided wisely in taking action not against but in favour of sex workers, those that should have the actual responsibility of contracting the virus can often abuse their power. Kane reports examples of police officers arresting sex workers and then asking for unprotected sex in exchange of their release, or health workers refusing giving HIV treatments to men who have sex with men because of prejudice. Since the reality can often be like this, to educate the key population is first of all a matter of trust.
Talking about good examples, some health workers together with the non-profit organization 'Public Services International' are preventing HIV in a brothel in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). Their aim is to educate women about HIV/AIDS matters, so that they can stay healthy and eventually educate other sex workers. What's really difficult in a project like this is that you first of all must gain the trust of those you're addressing your messages to. You have to understand that these people have reasons to be scared, so they first need to understand that you're not a police officer and that you're not there to hurt them but to help. Even if it seems that somebody doesn't want to help, most of the time the real reason is that a trust bond is needed, since the quality of human relations is not a detail when it comes to actual HIV prevention.