Low and stable HIV infection rates in Senegal: natural course of the epidemic or evidence for success of prevention?


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Abstract

Objectives:To document the level of HIV infection in Senegal and also to review evidence of the impact of efforts in prevention, developed by the National AIDS Control Programme and the Civil Society, on the level of the HIV epidemic.Methods: Research, compilation and critical review of all relevant data on HIV and sexually transmission diseases (STDs) epidemiology, sexual behaviour, and the efforts in prevention developed in Senegal.Results:From 1989 to 1996, the levels of HIV infection estimated in four sentinel urban regions remained stable at around 1.2% in the population of pregnant women, and at 3% in male STD patients. It had increased to 19% in female sex workers. A strong political and community commitment led to an early response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has been extended since 1986. Blood transfusion safety was established at the start of the HIV epidemic. The level of knowledge of preventive practices relating to HIV/AIDS among the general population exceeded 90% in the early 1990s. From 1991 to 1996, a 30% to 66% decrease of the STD prevalence rates was observed in pregnant women and sex workers in Dakar. In 1997, 33% of men aged 15-49 years in Dakar reported having had sex with non-regular partners. Among them 67% reported condom use.Conclusions:It is not possible to know what the course of the HIV epidemic in Senegal would have taken in the absence of efforts at prevention. Certainly, several factors that pre-dated the occurrence of AIDS in Senegal laid the groundwork for a positive response. However, data from a number of sources do reveal the successfulness of efforts in prevention. From available data, Senegal can rightfully claim to have contained the spread of HIV by intervening early and comprehensively to increase knowledge and awareness of HIV/AIDS and to promote safe sexual behaviour.

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