The prevalence of HIV infection among adults in Senegal is about 1 percent, while nearly 36 percent of adults in Botswana are infected with HIV and almost 20 percent are infected in South Africa. Senegal's low infection rate is the direct result of its aggressive measures to confront the AIDS epidemic, with the willingness of the nation's government, religious institutions, and society to break tradition with the cultural taboos and become outspoken about the issues. Zephirin Diabre, associate administrator of the U.N. Development Program, notes that "the main responsibility is with the Senegalese people themselves. What they have done proves that where there is a will to achieve, it can work." In 1986, when the first six HIV cases appeared in Senegal, the government immediately developed a program to protect the national population, and within a year, a national system of blood screening for transfusions was in place. The government worked with foreign counterparts in fact-finding efforts to use as the basis for government policies, and millions of dollars were spent on AIDS prevention programs, including the use of condoms. Senegal was the first African nation to successfully negotiate a 90 percent reduction in the cost of anti-AIDS drugs purchased from international pharmaceutical firms. Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade notes that his nation has been very successful in fighting HIV, but he knows the battle will continue.
Other CDC News for March 9, 2001