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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Disbelief in AIDS Hampers Prevention Efforts in Mali

August 28, 2003
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).

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