December 7, 2011
Stigma and discrimination remain problems for people with HIV/AIDS in Africa, experts and advocates said during the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), which runs through Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
"In Africa, many of those affected start taking antiretrovirals far too late, and this is largely because of the widespread stigma," said Nils Grede, an AIDS expert with the UN World Food Program. "People just don't want to know that they are sick, because they are frightened of the reaction of their family and friends."
Ahead of ICASA, groups representing LGBTs ran into strong opposition from religious leaders in the conference's Christian host-country, and scarcely a hotel in the city was prepared to host LGBT meetings. Homosexual relations are banned in most of the region, and where legal they are associated with HIV/AIDS, even though the epidemic in Africa is primarily heterosexual. Lack of awareness about the risks of unprotected sex is widespread, especially in rural areas.
HIV/AIDS support groups in Africa are increasingly being formed. Outside Nairobi, Kenya, in Kibera -- one of Africa's largest slums -- the Power Woman Group helps women with HIV. About 20 women and 72 children in the group make items such as handbags, T-shirts, and sandals, which they sell in order to buy food and accumulate savings. The US Agency for International Development-funded Urban Garden project in Ethiopia also helps women and children grow fruit and vegetables, promoting nutrition and a steady income.