AIDS Could Follow African Pipeline
June 25, 2003
Hundreds of African men looking for jobs have congregated in Kome, Chad, in a shantytown outside the remote headquarters of a $3.7 billion oil pipeline project. ExxonMobil Corp. officials call the shantytown Kome Atan, from the French word "to wait," as in waiting for a job. Residents call the place Kome Satan, for its numerous prostitutes and bars. Health experts say conditions here and at similar settlements along the 670-mile pipeline route are ideal for spreading AIDS.Adapted from:
There is no way to measure the problem precisely, because clinics in Chad's southern oil region lack the means to test for HIV. But Lori Leonard, an American researcher who works with the clinics, said health workers have observed a sharp rise in STD symptoms, which provide a rough gauge of HIV incidence.
Health consultants had warned that this would happen. But the governments of Chad and Cameroon, oil companies ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco Corp., Petronas of Malaysia, and the World Bank did not take aggressive steps that experts had hoped for.
The World Bank and the consortium sponsor a prevention program that includes distributing free condoms, steering women away from prostitution, and treating STDs that increase HIV risk. But the program offers HIV testing only to pipeline workers and provides no AIDS treatment. Chad and Cameroon are responsible for identifying and treating AIDS cases, but the countries have taken few steps to improve existing AIDS programs, which are underfunded and mostly ineffective.
Bill Jobin, a health consultant hired by Chad and Cameroon to analyze the pipeline's impact on AIDS, said tons of material was trucked to Chad's oil fields from Douala, a Cameroonian town where 17 percent of truck drivers have HIV. Where the trucks stop for customs on the M'Bere River, 55 percent of the prostitutes in a pipeline shantytown are HIV-positive. "You had all the conditions for the virus to work its way into central Chad with the truck drivers," Jobin said.
Los Angeles Times
06.18.03; Ken Silverstein
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.