Algeria Promotes Condoms to Prevent HIV/AIDS
December 28, 2006
Long considered taboo in this conservative Muslim country, condoms are now being publicly promoted by experts in Algeria as a tool in preventing HIV/AIDS.
A government campaign on Algerian radio and television stations touts the contraceptive's virtues as a barrier to infection. Officials asked imams last month to preach during Friday prayers about HIV/AIDS and how it is transmitted.
According to UNAIDS, just 19,000 in Algeria's population of 33 million -- 0.05 percent -- are living with HIV/AIDS. The country's health ministry reports that only 40 new AIDS cases and 120 HIV cases are registered each year. But experts note that Algeria, much like other Islamic countries, faces the challenges of widespread ignorance about the disease and a dearth of HIV screenings.
"It's urgent to create [new] generations conscious of the dangers that await them," said Father Kamel Senhadji, a genetic therapy specialist in the eastern city of Tizi Ouzou. "The best way to change mentalities is to target schools to instill a culture of prevention against AIDS." An official survey published in November found 40 percent of Algerian youth knew "nothing about AIDS" or how to prevent it.
Algerian officials plan to open around 54 free HIV testing centers, said Father Abdelouahad Dif, head of a national AIDS committee. Locations targeted include the southern Hoggar region, a migration highway for sub-Saharan Africans bound for Europe that is considered an "at-risk zone" for the spread of HIV/AIDS.
"We're not yet at the point of putting [condom] distributors on the road," said one youth involved in an AIDS awareness campaign in an Algiers neighborhood. "But it's already remarkable progress to talk about the condom as the only protection against AIDS for those who don't resort to abstinence and who frequent prostitutes."
Agence France Presse
12.26.2006; Boubker Belkadi