Cameroon’s AIDS control agency and several local and international partners are setting up temporal testing units in neighbourhoods in these towns to test as many people as possible for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
“We are planning to test at least 7500 people in the Southwest Region”, says Dr. Pascal Atanga, Coordinator of the government-controlled Regional Technical Group against HIV/AIDS (RTG) in the Southwest region of Cameroon. According to Dr. Atanga and several other public health officials, HIV testing is a big step towards an effective response to HIV and AIDS. “You should know your status so that if you are positive you can have access to treatment, which is very effective and free of charge,” says Dr. Atanga.
Free HIV testing is also going on in every public hospital and health centre in the country, which may otherwise be costly for most Cameroonians. On the average, an HIV test would cost 1500FCFA (about 3 US dollars) in a country where 48 percent of the population is thought to be living under the poverty line.
Other activities leading up to the commemoration of World AIDS Day in Cameroon include radio and television talks to increase knowledge about HIV and AIDS, knowledge which young people in Cameroon badly need, according to the UN’s AIDS agency, UNAIDS.
Global AIDS Report – Cameroon Can Do Better
A global AIDS report by the UN’s agency on AIDS says Cameroon can do more to increase HIV knowledge and behaviour change.
The report, released on Tuesday, November 22 says “less than half of young people [in Cameroon] can correctly answer five basic questions about HIV and its transmission.”
This document notes that the government of Cameroon is spending less than 0.1 percent of its domestic revenue on HIV programmes. UNAIDS says only 30 percent of adults who need HIV treatment are getting any. The situation is even worse for kids as only 11% of HIV positive children are receiving treatment.
On a positive side, the report acknowledges that 97000 HIV positive people lived longer since 1996, thanks to treatment. New HIV infections have not risen by any significant number, meaning that the epidemic in the country is stabilizing.
UNAIDS has praised this development but is still calling for more investments in prevention programmes because for every one person who gets antiretroviral treatment, two more people become infected.
As of December 2009, there were an estimated number of six hundred and ten thousand people living with HIV in Cameroon, giving a prevalence rate of 5.1%.
Globally, there are 33.3 million people living with HIV and about two-thirds of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNAIDS, prevention efforts are paying off but at a slow pace. “We are breaking the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic with bold actions and smart choices,” says UNAIDS director Michel Sidibé. “Investments in the AIDS response are paying off, but gains are fragile—the challenge now is how we can all work to accelerate progress.”