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NGO Medicos do Mundo Provides First HIV Tests on West African Island of Principe

December 16, 2005

The international medical organization Medicos do Mundo on Thursday gave residents of the West African island of Principe -- part of the archipelago country Sao Tome and Principe -- their first opportunity to be tested for HIV, Reuters reports. Medicos do Mundo in 2003 was the first organization to provide HIV tests on the island of Sao Tome, which has a population of about 150,000. The group has recorded an HIV prevalence rate of about 2.4% from about 4,000 tests conducted on Sao Tome, but some officials said they think the prevalence rate is higher because most of the testing was done in urban areas where people are knowledgeable about HIV and might take steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Bruno Cardoso, Medicos do Mundo's country coordinator for the archipelago, said that although Principe is "a small and isolated island," its residents "should be given exactly the same chance as everyone in the bigger island of Sao Tome to receive information about HIV and get access to tests." The government provides antiretroviral drugs to all HIV-positive people who need them, but Cardoso said many challenges remain in fighting the epidemic in the country. "[T]he roads are bad and people don't have access to hospitals or health centers," he said, adding, "It can take two hours to walk to a place that has condoms so people often prefer not to use them. That's very dangerous" (Eisentein, Reuters, 12/15).

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