Madagascar’s Ticking HIV Time Bomb
August 1, 2007
In response to rising syphilis rates in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar's Ministry of Health has declared a state of emergency for the remote southern town and plans to launch a sex education program. The ministry estimates 30 percent of sexually active adults in Fort Dauphin may have syphilis. Health officials are concerned that untreated syphilis lesions could facilitate HIV infection.
Hemmed in by mountains, Fort Dauphin was long one of the most isolated towns on the island. But a recent $600 million mining project nearby has brought an economic boom to the area. Along with the influx of miners and other foreign contractors, sex workers from across Madagascar are flocking to Fort Dauphin.
"There are more foreigners with more money to spend on prostitutes, so prostitutes from all over the country are coming to work here," said Emanuel Haro, regional development director for the town.
"We have a code of conduct in place which deals with fraternizing with the locals," said Gary O'Brian, president of QMM, the Rio Tinto mining project. "I can confidently say that we've done everything we can to make sure we're not having a negative impact on the rates of sexually transmitted infections there."
But one South African mineworker said he has seen "a rise in prostitution." "If it gets reported we get sent home, but the problem is no one reports, so it goes on," he said.
Despite high STD rates on the island, Madagascar's HIV rate is still under 1 percent, said Fenosoa Ratsimanetrimanana, head of Madagascar's National Committee to Fight HIV/AIDS.
7.27.2007; Jonny Hogg
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.