14 November 2007

Mozambique: Government Reviews HIV/Aids Strategy

Maputo — The Mozambican government has decided to review its strategy for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS after finding that the current plans are not effective.

Health Minister Ivo Garrido, speaking in his capacity as spokesperson of the Steering Council of the National AIDS Council (CNCS), declared that the current strategies are not yielding the desired results.

Cited in Wednesday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", Garrido said that a meeting of the Steering Council held on Monday identified 10 areas that should guide the revision.

The first is coordination. Garrido said the CNCS found that many groups in Mozambican society are willing to fight against AIDS, but their activities are not properly coordinated. (This is a telling criticism of the CNCS, since the whole rationale behind such a body is that it should coordinate the fight against the epidemic).

Another key area is how to measure the effectiveness of strategies. The idea that the current strategies are failing was at the moment "just a feeling", and it should be subject to "scientific measurement".

That meant "we must create very well defined monitoring and evaluation mechanisms", stressed Garrido.

The third priority concerned communication. Garrido said it was found that the messages currently in use are not appropriate for the situation.

Counselling and voluntary HIV testing is another area to be dealt with. "Other experiences show that there are more effective ways of counselling and testing than the ones we have been using", said Garrido.

The review will also address the definition of "high risk groups". Although Garrido himself believed that "almost everybody" is at risk, a task group was set up to work on this matter.

As for when the new strategy will be presented, Garrido said that, although the Steering Council does not take decisions, "It is our wish that, at least by early next year proposals on coordination will exist".

Garrido said that a new report on HIV prevalence in the country is due within the next few weeks. The figures currently in use are somewhat out of date, since they are drawn from the epidemiological surveillance round of 2004, which estimated the HIV prevalence rate at 16.2 per cent among adults aged between 15 and 49.

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