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IANS/Hindustan Times Examines GTZ's Efforts to Educate Congolese Villagers About HIV/AIDS

November 20, 2007

The IANS/Hindustan Times on Saturday examined the German aid agency GTZ's efforts to educate people living in rural areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo about HIV/AIDS. GTZ in March launched a mobile sex education caravan to travel hundreds of miles to Maniema, a remote Congolese province with no borders to any other countries and few paved roads. According to the IANS/Times, Maniema has not been highly affected by HIV/AIDS, but the emerging mine industry and influx of workers could create a "new breeding ground" for the disease.

The GTZ project established five stations with different educational components under a mango tree in a village using tree branches and colorful fabric. Setting up under a mango tree aims to appeal to the village's local traditions and make people feel more comfortable about learning the material, the IANS/Times reports. "To bring people together, we found out what is the traditional way to do so. And that's around the mango tree," Achim Koch, project manager of GTZ's youth initiatives in the region, said.

About 10 people visit each station at one time to learn about HIV transmission, prevention and management, as well as different contraceptive methods. The lessons are targeted at youth, particularly young men who were drafted into militia groups during conflict. The learning is interactive and includes games in which participants must describe the risks of HIV in particular situations.

According to the IANS/Times, about 200 people visit the stations daily, and the group has reached more than 16,000 people since it began the project. The United Nations estimates that the country's HIV prevalence is between 1.7% and 7.6% among the general population and that it might be as high as 20% among women in the country's conflict zones (IANS/Hindustan Times, 11/17).

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