HIV/AIDS Impacting Military Readiness Across African Continent
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is affecting African military troops' ability to defend their countries and operate peacekeeping missions on the continent, the AP/USA Today reports. The Pretoria, South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies estimates that HIV prevalence rates among some African militaries are as much as twice the rate among the general population, although few militaries have reliable figures. "HIV and other diseases represent a readiness challenge to militaries throughout the world, and security for us all demands that we pay attention to this," U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Theresa Whalen recently told a meeting of African military health officers in Cape Town, South Africa. In Uganda, AIDS-related diseases are the largest cause of death among troops, according to Lt. Col. Kenneth Ochen, a military physician. As many as four U.N. peacekeepers operating in Sierra Leone have died of AIDS-related causes, and 10 others were sent home because of AIDS-related illnesses. In Sudan, two African Union peacekeepers have died of AIDS-related diseases. To address the issue in South Africa, the country's government, in partnership with the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in 2003 began a five-year initiative -- called Project Phidisa, or Prolong Life -- to treat HIV-positive members of the South African National Defence Force. Over the last two years, the project has established five clinics, has tested more than 2,900 troops, and is providing 834 force members and their dependents with care. The later phases of the project aim to analyze the role of nutritional supplements and traditional medicines in delaying the progression of HIV infection. Although other countries in the region also are attempting to increase access to care, barriers such as stigma, infrastructure and cost still remain, according to the AP/USA Today (Zavis, AP/USA Today, 9/19).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.