Pretoria, May 03, 2006 - South Africa's Independent Online on Tuesday examined efforts in Somaliland, a self-proclaimed republic in northwest Somalia, to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS. HIV prevalence in Somaliland is 1.4%, but health authorities warn that a lack of information about the virus, as well as cultural and religious beliefs, could contribute to an increase in HIV prevalence. According to Deq Saeed of UNAIDS Somaliland, HIV prevalence "has increased tremendously over the past four years, but still a majority of the population [is] not serious about [the virus'] consequences." In addition, misconceptions about HIV/AIDS are widespread, and some local people believe that the virus cannot be found in Somaliland, the Independent Online reports. Stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS also are hampering efforts to control the spread of the virus in the region. Some health experts say that some people have been assaulted by relatives for being HIV-positive. Somaliland in 2005 established a commission to plan and coordinate efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, and antiretroviral drugs provided by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees are distributed to HIV-positive residents at no cost, which has encouraged people to seek counseling and testing services, according to the Independent Online ( Independent Online, 5/2).
Source: Kaiser Network