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International News
Congo to Expand HIV Testing Through Mobile Units

April 16, 2009

Congo's National AIDS Council has ordered a mobile HIV testing unit for the capital of Brazzaville following a national fundraising campaign, IRIN/PlusNews reports. Franck Fortune Mboussou -- the main technical adviser to the AIDS council, or CNLS -- said that after raising $218,000, the organization now can cover the majority of costs to buy and operate a mobile testing unit in the city. The unit will be sent to high-traffic areas such as schools, religious buildings and markets to provide residents with accessible testing and flexible operating hours. The mobile unit will be open on weekends, unlike stationary centers, according to Mboussou. In addition, the government has asked the World Bank to fund the purchase of six additional units for large towns in the south and north of the country. According to Mboussou, with the money left over from the fundraising campaign, CNLS plans to purchase another unit for the city of Pointe-Noire.

"The purchase of the modern mobile testing equipment was inspired by the experience of the 'basic' voluntary mobile testing center, which was put in place in 2008 with support from the United Nations Population Fund," Marie-Francke Puruehnce, executive director of CNLS, said, adding that the mobile center allowed up to 150 people to be tested daily -- the equivalent number of people tested in two or three months at some stationary centers. To raise money for the unit, the council launched a fundraising campaign in which residents could send 60 cent text messages to three private mobile telephone networks in the country. People also could send contributions to a bank account. Mboussou said the "objective was to give people the opportunity to take control of their own health by showing that they are willing to fight against" HIV/AIDS.

HIV prevalence rates in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire -- Congo's two largest cities -- are the highest in the country at around 5%, according to a 2003 study conducted by the World Bank. HIV testing rates in the country are less than 10% among women and 12% among men, according to a 2005 national demographic health study (IRIN/PlusNews, 4/14).

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