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To combat HIV/AIDS, perhaps we should look to Africa


About half of all new HIV infections - 45% to be exact - occur among African Americans. To say this makes fighting the disease of crucial importance to that community in particular would be an understatement, and researchers are trying desperately to figure out how to help. Eban may be one way.

Eban, or "fence," is a traditional African concept of love, safety and security. And, in a study of African American couples in which one partner had HIV, an intervention program based on this concept reduced risky behaviors associated with HIV and STD transmission.

Although there was little difference in STD incidence between the two groups, couples in the Eban-based intervention program were significantly more likely to use condoms than were those in a similar, but non-Eban-centric program.

The researchers write in their conclusion: "Public health scientists have urged a shift beyond individual-level HIV interventions to prevention strategies that have an impact on social structures and context to curb the epidemic among African Americans."

This strategy could be one with potential.

Here's the full AIDS-intervention study published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and the news release from Emory University.

The results are timely. President Obama acknowledged this week that, thus far, the nation's attempts to prevent the spread of AIDS have been less than successful. Here's Wednesday's L.A. Times story: Obama's HIV/AIDS policy hailed for targeting spread of disease

And more on the Eban HIV/STD risk-reduction strategy, from a study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. The summary states: "Highlighting Nguzo Saba principles and matching facilitator-participant ethnocultural backgrounds increased the meaning and relevance of the intervention content and made participants feel comfortable disclosing and working through sensitive risk behaviors."

In other words: This could work.

Here's the symbol for Eban and other West African symbols from


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Information in this article was accurate in July 14, 2010. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.