Youths at the Center of AIDS Discussions

World AIDS Day Celebrations in Cameroon
In Cameroon about 500,000 people live with HIV/AIDS.
World AIDS Day

The International day of AIDS was celebrated last Saturday in Cameroon with serious academic and focus group discussions in several districts and villages under the patronage of the first lady, Chantal Biya.

The discussions focused on the need to create awareness about the fact that HIV/AIDS is still a living reality and that people must stop premarital sexual intercourse.

In Cameroon the celebrations were placed under the theme “Zero Infection, Deaths and Zero Discrimination against HIV/AIDS Patients”. Marches and sporting events were also arranged to characterize the celebrative activities in Yaounde and most provinces of the country.

A release from the Minister of Public Health, Mama Fouda, revealed that persons between the ages of 18 to 24 years are the most infected because of their irresponsible sex conduct. Estimates show that about 29,000 boys and 72,000 girls between the ages of 18 and 24 live with HIV/AIDS. Ignorance and the refusal to go for the AIDS screening test remain the main factors militating in the wild spread of HIV/AIDS amongst these age groups.

Medical officials expect that if the youth do not adopt hygiene habits, some 36,000 males and 82,000 females will be infected by the year 2015. To give more meaning to these disturbing revelations, doctors across the board assure that youth in secondary schools will be the most affected especially in semi-urban areas and villages.

In that regard, they called on parents and teachers to help educate children and distribute flyers and handouts inciting the youth to abstain from premarital sex.

Since, HIV/AIDS remains a major public health crisis in Cameroon; public health officials called on traditional healers to stop carrying out dangerous health campaigns in media outlets claiming they have a cure for AIDS. Officials also called on media agencies to stop broadcasting and spreading such adverts from people they call charlatans.

Early Marriages in North Cameroon

Muslim population was also targeted in these campaigns. Miss Raisa a third form student at the Cite Verte High School in Yaounde thanked government for bringing the AIDS campaign to their school and said she was convinced that she will educate most of her Muslim sisters and brothers on the issue.

On her part; Aminatou of the New Bell neighborhood in Douala said most of her friends are yet to believe that HIV/AIDS is a fact they must live with. In a sad tone she said they are usually forced into unprotected sex with elderly husbands, as most young girls are forced into early marriages without medical checkups. A thirteen-year old girl, Hamza Hawa who was forced into marriage by her parents at the age of 12 in the outskirts of Garoua in the Muslim-dominated area of northern Cameroon said how she has been systematically subjected to unprotected sex with a fifty five-year old man who is married to three other wives.

Medical practitioners in that region of Cameroon tell the story of how they receive girls between 12 and 16 years old during prenatal consultations, with about 75% of whom infected with HIV/AIDS and how their husbands usually refuse to be screened, preferring to accuse these girls of being infected by other persons. The result being that they are repudiated from the marital homes. Hundreds of these girls suffer and die in silence for fear of being denounced or discriminated against and flushed out of marriage which did not after all consent to.

Statistics from the Ministry of Women Empowerment in Cameroon show that the issues which militate for the wild spread of HIV/AIDS amongst women in the Muslim community in Cameroon is ignorance, early marriages and the systematic refusal to carry out screening.

Some 34 million people worldwide were living with HIV at the end of 2011. Deaths from AIDS fell to 1.7 million in 2011, down from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005 and from 1.8 million in 2010.

The story of Aissatou Sidiki is very revealing. She went in for the HIV/AIDS test on November 23, 2012. Results showed that she has been living with AIDS virus, a situation which occurs to several other Muslims in Cameroon and many other Cameroonians. People there prefer to die without knowing that they suffer from this dangerous killer. Some citizens even believe that the government spreads the virus intentionally to reduce the population!

Individuals who get infected, hardly go for tritherapy (antiviral drugs) treatment, instead, they keep convincing themselves that access to medication is only meant for the rich. Therefore, they take concoctions from traditional leaders, ending up killing them silently.

From its side, the government organized special focus group discussions during the week of November 21 to 30, 2012 in the Muslims districts of Douala and Yaounde, in addition to the three Northern regions of the nation. As a result of these useful campaigns, health officials found that Cameroonian Muslims are gradually getting aware that HIV/AIDS is a real threat to their health.

“I swear to God that I’ll carry on this campaign and ensure that young Muslims in my village go for free HIV/AIDS screening,” said the seventy-year old woman, Abiba Yaro. According to Yaro, the obstacle of ignorance has been broken amongst her fellow villagers, and currently they know how to protect themselves and fight against HIV/AIDS.

In Cameroon about 500,000 people live with HIV/AIDS, even though, the prevalence rate has dropped from 4% to 2.5%. The prevalence rate dropped as a result of the intense raising of awareness on avoiding HIV/AIDS infections, and the constant fight against discrimination which prevented individuals from conducting voluntary screening tests. World AIDS Day celebrations just ended a while ago with a big gala evening in Yaounde.

Related Links:
World AIDS Day (Special Page)
AIDS Threatens Arab World: UN
Muslim Day of Dignity Aids US Needy
UK Islamic School Aids Secular Neighbor
AIDS Across Africa: What Role Does Male Circumcision Play?
Health and Environmental reporter in Cameroon. Masters degree in Health and Environmental Communication and has been reporting on such issues on Cameroon Television for the past years where he is the editor–in-chief in charge of television documentaries and news features.

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