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Central African Republic

For youth in the Central African Republic, the battle against HIV is just beginning

© UNICEF Central African Republic/2006/Willemot
Christian Latakpi, 15, and Ermine Ndolombaye, 19, supervisor-peer educators in Bangui, CAR, help inform other young people about the ways to protect themselves against HIV.
By Yves Willemot

BANGUI, Central African Republic, 26 May 2006 – Although research has confirmed that 13.5 per cent of the population in the Central African Republic (CAR) is infected with HIV, until recently not a lot was done about it.

With the support of UNICEF and its partners, things are now slowly changing. Young people are becoming frontline warriors in the fight against HIV.

“It’s cool to work with friends to inform young people in our neighbourhoods about HIV and the way to protect yourself,” says Christian Latakpi, 15.

Christian is proud to be a supervisor-peer educator. He’s working with the Youth Centre for Information, Education and Counselling (CIEE) here in the capital.

By young people, for young people

CIEE is an HIV/AIDS prevention programme run by young people for young people, and is part of UNICEF’S global campaign, UNITE FOR CHILDREN  UNITE AGAINST AIDS.

UNICEF is an active supporter of CIEE and hopes it will soon spread to other areas in the city. Right now it is running in just one of the eight districts of Bangui. 

The young people have divided the district into 30 communication areas where young people organize action groups around HIV/AIDS prevention and other health and social issues. Every communication area has 10 peer educators who are coached by one supervisor.

© UNICEF Central African Republic/2006/Willemot
With a motorcycle provided by UNICEF, Thomas Nditar drives to different neighbourhoods in Bangui to speak with young people about prevention.
Avoiding risky behaviour

A lot of work goes into analyzing risky behaviour and developing communication messages about HIV prevention.

Thomas Nditar is the coordinator of the project. With a motorcycle provided by UNICEF, he drives to different neighbourhoods to speak with young people.

“It is gratifying to see that young people appreciate our work and that there is a growing awareness about HIV/AIDS and to way to protect oneself,” he says.

Even though CAR is facing a disastrous rate of new infections every year, the response remains limited. The only children’s hospital in the country lacks financial resources. But it is doing its best, with support from UNICEF, to address the issue of HIV. 

Drugs to fight HIV/AIDS

With antiretroviral drugs provided by the Global Fund – an initiative launched by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to increase the resources to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic – the hospital treats 150 children.

“We are getting very good results,” says Dr. Christian Gody, “but we can only treat a very small percentage of all children infected.”

With support from UNICEF, the children’s hospital has started a unit that pays particular attention to the prevention of parent-to-child transmission of HIV. Parents can be tested for infection. If the test is positive, they are given advice and medical support. Until now, less than 1 per cent of the mothers infected with HIV were given care.

CAR is starting to react to its HIV/AIDS problem. If the pandemic is to be stopped, lessons will have to be learnt quickly and effective programmes put in place across the whole country.



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