Health Workers Worried About AIDS in Chad's Refugee Camps
May 18, 2007
Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese who fled the fighting in Darfur and found shelter in the refugee camps of neighboring Chad are now facing another deadly threat: AIDS.
At Camp Gaga, about 60 kilometers inside Chad, a team of UNICEF-trained educators is trying to spread the word about HIV. Nanylta Madingue is UNICEF's HIV/AIDS program officer for eastern Chad. HIV prevention information is offered separately to men and women, she said, so they can feel comfortable openly discussing the disease and the sensitive topics it involves.
Camp Gaga is home to some 15,000 Sudanese. The UN conducted a study of Chad's refugee camps shortly after Sudanese began flocking there to escape Darfur in June 2004. The study showed the refugees, most of whom are illiterate, knew very little about HIV/AIDS. In addition, certain cultural practices that can spread HIV -- such a tattooing, female genital mutilation and polygamy -- persist in the camps, Madingue said.
More than 25,000 Sudanese live in nearby Goz Beida, and doctors at the hospital there recently tested 50 pregnant women for HIV. Ten percent were found to be infected.
Before they were forced to flee, most of the Sudanese lived in relative isolation in their villages, Madingue said. "But now, they are in close contact with surrounding communities where there are cases of HIV." In addition, inter-ethnic violence often leads to rape, she said.
The refugee community needs access to voluntary testing centers, but this takes money, Madingue said. "We have suspected cases and some confirmed ones, but we fear the risk is extremely high. We want to act quickly."
Voice of America News
05.14.2007; Phuong Tran
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.