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Archive for October 28th, 2009

Many of the women entering into sex work in Addis are rural migrants who have failed to secure formal employment

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2009

ETHIOPIA: Increased condom use among sex workers but more education needed

Photo: WD/IRIN
Men often offer Teguest more money for sex without a condom

ADDIS ABABA, – With non-skilled jobs in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, paying as little as US$16 per month, the financial incentives to engage in commercial sex work are overwhelming – earning 30 times a domestic workers salary.

Many of the women entering into sex work in Addis are rural migrants who have failed to secure formal employment, or are escaping poor-paying jobs in the city or unwanted marriages in the country, according to a 2008 article published by the UK’s Royal Geographical Society.

Teguest, a 16-year-old girl from Gonder, a town 700km northwest of Addis Ababa, fled to the capital four months ago after the death of her parents and a dispute with her brothers.

The relative she contacted in the capital was already engaged in sex work, so the decision to enter the trade was an easy one. Teguest charges 10 Ethiopian Birr or $0.80 per client and has sex with as many as 20 men a day in her tiny room; she is adamant that under no circumstances would she have unprotected sex.

“No, I would not do that for any money. I need my life,” she said. “They sometimes offer 200 Birr [$16] and beg me, but life is more important than money.”

Teguest says in the past four months, at least 10 men have asked her for unprotected sex at a higher fee.

The good news, according to research by Wise-UP – a condom-promotion project implemented by local NGO Timret Le Hiwot and funded by social marketers DKT-Ethiopia – is that 99 percent of sex workers in 42 Ethiopian cities said they used a condom with their last paying partner, compared with 91 percent in 2002.

Shame factor

But according to health workers, not all sex workers are as fastidious about condom use as they claim. When Abeje Israel, monitoring and evaluation officer at Wise-Up, posed as a paying customer for random surveys, some women did agree to have sex without a condom for a higher fee.

A 2006 study published in the British Medical Journal found that results of sex worker studies obtained using surveys and questionnaires may be biased as they will not always reveal the truth because of “pride, fear, or shame”.

“They may say that they do not have sex without a condom, but the reality may be different; they may pretend and not show the real circumstances,” Abeje said.

“All these [sex] workers are very vulnerable,” he added. “They are not very powerful and they receive a very small sum of money; if you offer them more money, they may be willing to have sex without a condom.”

Education vital

Further investigation makes it clear that the city’s sex workers still need education on protecting themselves from sexually transmitted infections.

Meron, 25, also says she would never have sex without a condom, but added that she took the precaution of insisting her clients used two condoms – a practice roundly advised against as it increases the chances of a condom tearing.

Low levels of education and alcohol use also affect the likelihood of female sex workers using condoms, according to a study by Addis Ababa University.

Wise-UP aims to achieve 100 percent condom use among sex workers in the capital, which has an HIV prevalence rate of 7.5 percent, almost four times the national average of 2.1 percent.


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HIV/AIDS funding now accounts for about half of all health aid

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2009

GLOBAL: AIDS funding debate heats up

Photo: Nic McPhee/Flickr

JOHANNESBURG, – The billions of donor dollars spent on combating HIV/AIDS in the last decade, often at the expense of other fatal diseases, have done little to strengthen weak national health systems, some global health experts argue.

On the contrary, say others, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has sparked massive increases in international aid for health that have benefited a range of health issues and systems. The debate over prioritizing HIV/AIDS in global health spending received fresh impetus after recent data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) highlighted the millions of children’s lives lost to easy-to-treat diseases like diarrhoea.

Worldwide, diarrhoea kills an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five every year, but receives less than 5 percent of all funding available for disease research and treatment. A WHO diarrhoea specialist noted that huge progress made in the 1980s had stagnated as attention was diverted to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Meanwhile, funding for HIV/AIDS rose from 5.5 percent of health aid in 1998 to nearly half of it in 2007, according to an analysis published in a special supplement of the journal, AIDS, focusing on the impact of the HIV scale-up on health systems in developing countries. Total funding for health nearly tripled between 1998 and 2007.

An article by Jeremy Shiffman and others at Syracuse University in New York challenges the argument that the focus on HIV/AIDS has generated greater attention and resources for all health issues.

A comparison of donor funding for four major public health issues – HIV/AIDS, health systems strengthening, population and reproductive health, and infectious disease control – found that the amount spent on HIV/AIDS and, to a lesser extent, infectious disease control, grew rapidly from 1998 to 2007, while funding for strengthening health systems, and population and reproductive health, declined steeply.

In another article, Samuel Lieberman and others from the World Bank’s Global HIV/AIDS Programme take the view that the “unprecedented challenge of AIDS” helped generate the overall increase in health funding and mobilized an international push for more equitable health care access.

Martha Embrey and others from Columbia University maintain that global AIDS initiatives have significantly improved the procurement and distribution of drugs, not only for AIDS but for many other diseases.

Organizations like the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative and UNITAID have secured substantial price reductions for drugs, while other donor initiatives have helped countries improve their systems for drug procurement and supply chain management, they point out.

HIV-support programmes have contributed to building the skills of pharmacists to provide adherence counselling while pharmacy assistants and nurses in primary health care clinics have been trained to dispense antiretrovirals and drugs for other chronic diseases.

Ruth Levine and Nandini Oomman, of the Centre for Global Development in Washington, in the US, focus not on whether HIV/AIDS has received a disproportionate share of donor funding but on how best that money can be spent both to improve access to HIV treatment, prevention and care and to strengthen health systems.

Several AIDS donor organizations have begun shifting their efforts to strengthening health systems, based on the realization that weak health systems are frustrating their AIDS-related goals. President Barack Obama’s administration has announced that the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) intends to widen its focus to include maternal and child health and tropical diseases.

The authors suggest that donors will need to “align their actions with the priorities and approaches of partner governments and other national stakeholders” to achieve a broader focus on health-related issues.

In an introduction to the supplement, Wafaa El-Sadr, of Columbia University, and Kevin De Cock, director of HIV/AIDS at WHO, caution against encouraging competition between health issues.

“There is strength in diversity and debate, yet there is also danger of fragmentation,” they note. “Global health needs global financing, and there is enough money in the world to assure it.”


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AFRICA: Digesting a “mouthful” of climate change

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2009

Photo: Hilary Uguru/IRIN
Africa is already very vulnerable to natural disasters

MIDRAND, – Disaster risk reduction as a tool for climate change adaptation is a “technical mouthful” said Rachel Shebesh, chair of the African Parliamentarian Initiative for Climate Risk Reduction.

Members of the Pan-African Parliament thought so too. The legislative body of the African Union met in Midrand, halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria in South Africa, for a parliamentary debate on climate change in Africa.

Shebesh, the new champion of disaster risk reduction (DRR) in Africa for the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR) has been given the job of making the subject accessible.


The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlstrm, said DRR was “the first line of defence” against climate risks. Many countries did not have a plan that covered what to do to adapt to the impact of climate change, but drawing up a disaster risk reduction plan was a starting point.

DRR deals with the short-term changes in climate variables, such as temperature; adaptation to climate change is about long-term changes to climate. It is now widely acknowledged that reducing vulnerability to climatic variables could improve resilience to the increased hazards associated with climate change.

What does it mean?

Wahlstrm acknowledged that trying to explain to countries what this meant, and how to take DRR into account, could sometimes be problematic. Essentially, it is about “disaster-proofing” any plan or programme.

“You take into account the current and future disaster risks. If you are building a bridge in an area, you study the soil, ask the people who live in the area about what they know about the conditions in the area: do they build in the area? What precautions do they take? The easiest thing to do is draw up a check list.”

Wahlstrm said she had come across several cities and towns in developing countries who had already been doing this, and “we are now busy putting all this information together for our next report.”

She also said she would not be surprised if “disaster-proofing” became a pre-requisite for sourcing money for any climate change adaptation project, “but I would rather countries took up the initiative on their own.” India, she saidhas made it mandatory for projects costing a certain amount to be disaster-proof so as to qualify for funds.


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African parliament strenghtened: Four Kenyan MPs get posts in Pan African Parliament

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2009

By David Ochami

Four Kenyan MPs were elected to key committees of the Pan African Parliament on Tuesday in Midrand, South Africa.

At the same time, Japans Parliament has undertaken to train Kenyas House staff on research and information technology in readiness for the introduction of electronic voting in Parliament.

The Secretary General of Japans House of Representatives Makoto Onitsuka signed the deal with Clerk Patrick Gichohi on Tuesday.

The deal will involve training on handling of committee proceedings.

According to reports from Parliament, Mr Gichohi is in Japan to discuss possibilities of reviving the Kenya-Japan Parliamentary friendship.

Parliamentary director for Foreign Affairs division of the Japanese Parliament Nakano Masamori said his country intends to equip Kenyas parliamentary staff with modern technological skills and capacity.

Gichohi said: “We want to get the best of all practices from parliaments that are effective so that we can make ours better.”

Meanwhile, reports from Midrand say Central Imenti MP Gitobu Imanyara was elected the rapporteur of the rules committee, the most powerful committee in Pan African Parliament.

The committee is charged with responsibility of transforming the Pan African Parliament from a consultative organ to a full legislative body by 2011.

At present, the Parliament exercises oversight and has advisory and consultative powers.

Abdul Bahari of Isiolo South was elected vice chairman of the Finance committee while Nominated MP Musa Sirma got a similar position in the Agriculture committee.

Rachel Shebesh (nominated) is the rapporteur of the Gender committee.

Only Malindi MP Gideon Mungaro did not vie for any position in the 11 committees.

Also known as the African Parliament, the seat of the Pan African Parliament was initially in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia but it was moved to South Africa.

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US kicks Kenyan: Visa ban official yet to be notified

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2009

By Standard Team

The Kenyan official slapped with a US visa ban will know his fate tomorrow.

US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger said they were still working out the paper work.

“Within two days, he will get it,” added Ranneberger in an interview with The Standard on Tuesday.

Though the US did not name the new man on its black list was Attorney General Amos Wako, Carson spared some unflattering words for Kenyas long serving legal advisor.

But when contacted, Wako told The Standard he had not received any letter and if he did, he would call a press conference.

Meanwhile, a Cabinet minister has supported the US decision to issue travel bans against top Government officials.

Fisheries Development Minister Paul Otuoma, said the action was within the internationally accepted ways of dealing with diplomacy.

Deported people

He said even Kenya on various occasions had deported or banned people it perceived unwanted.

“It is purely Americas prerogative and Kenyans should not be worried over the action,” he said.

Speaking after a tour of a fish farm near Sagana town on Tuesday, the minister said action against an individual does not make the two countries enemies.

Dr Otuoma, who visited Mr William Kiamas fish farm, later launched the release of the Sh1.12 billion the Government allocated in its budget towards the economic stimulus programme.

On Monday the US government ignored a protest letter by President Kibaki and struck again.

The superpower dispatched Mr Johnnie Carson, the high ranking official whose actions led to the protest, to Nairobi. Carson brought the message that one more Kenyan top official is banned from stepping on US soil and three more will soon be on the list of unwanted persons.

Carsons visit comes eight days before the International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo jets in for what could be ground breaking talks on post-election violence trials.

Stories by Martin Mutua, Mutinda Mwanzia and Munene Kamau

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