AIDS Weekly (07.14.03) - Thursday, August 28, 2003
Researchers from England found that widespread skepticism
about the existence of AIDS hampers prevention efforts in
Mali. S. Castle and colleagues at the London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine wrote that "qualitative research was
carried out in the Malian cities of Sikasso and Bamako with a
view to setting up HIV voluntary counseling and testing (VCT)
services and a separate program to enable young people to
improve their sexual health."
They found that "a large number of respondents said they did
not believe in the existence of AIDS. Reasons for disbelief
were related to the perceived lack of AIDS cases in China, the
inability of the virus to be transmitted by mosquitoes and
confusion about mother-to-child transmission."
The scientists noted that highly educated Malians were very
skeptical of the disease, believing it to be a Western plot to
encourage condom use among Africans to halt population growth.
They found that those less educated or uneducated were more
likely to believe in the existence of AIDS, having seen
someone infected, "often when they had been on labor migration
to Cote d'Ivoire where HIV prevalence is higher."
The report noted that such skepticism would likely limit the
use of VCT services, and cited other reasons for the potential
non-use of services: lack of confidence in laboratory
technicians' competence and fear that those testing positive
would be stigmatized. The authors concluded that widespread
awareness-raising campaigns were necessary, as well as
participatory education programs to address HIV in the context
of other health risks, before VCT centers were set up.
The study, "Doubting the Existence of AIDS: A Barrier to
Voluntary HIV Testing and Counseling in Urban Mali," appeared
in Health Policy and Planning (2003;18(2):146-155).