A transit city in Niger extends HIV/AIDS care to migrants | Africa | DW | 30.11.2018
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A transit city in Niger extends HIV/AIDS care to migrants

The movement of people in Africa is driving the HIV/AIDS rate up. In one city Nigerien authorities have included migrants in their program to curb and treat the disease.

Agadez is the largest city in central Niger, with over 100,000 people, and a key West African transit hub. The prevalence rate of the sexually transmitted virus is not as high as in other African cities.

Hoping to keep it that way, the health ministry has extended its HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment programs to people who may just be passing through the city. 

The government has teamed up with non-governmental organizations based in Agadez. "We give proper counseling and medication to those living with HIV and this applies to all, not just the residents of Agadez," Mahmoud Aboubakar, the initiative's coordinator, told DW.

HIV/AIDS tests are also provided for foreigners on a voluntary basis when they enter or leave Agadez. Health experts say the program is proving helpful in curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

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One foreigner, speaking to DW on condition of anonymity, said she has benefited from the program. "I now use condoms and health workers, especially those working with the Red Cross, carry out routine checkups on migrants," she said.

A wall mural in South Africa with the red ribbon that symbolizes the fight against HIV/AIDS running through a cityscape of Johannesburg (AP)

South Africa has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Africa. Nigeria follows second.

Lingering stigma

Despite the steps taken in Niger to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, the stigma around the disease in Agadez and the nation as a whole is still hindering progress in curbing its spread. 

"Those stigmatized normally stop taking their medication and the danger of doing that cannot be overemphasized," said Almoustapha Mahamadou of Animas Sutura, one of the NGOs working in the area.

The language barrier is also making efforts harder, he said. Some migrants don't understand French or the local languages. Mahamadou and other volunteers in Agadez say more assistance from the government could help to eliminate such obstacles to beating the spread of HIV/AIDS.

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