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February 18, 2004

Africa's First AIDS Facility for the Deaf Launched with US Funding

From: Town Hall - Washington,DC,USA - Feb 18, 2004

Nairobi, Kenya ( - Funding from the U.S. is providing Africa's first AIDS prevention facility targeted specifically for the deaf, now up and running in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The counseling and information resource center, set up in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), signals a major shift from previous approaches to AIDS prevention education in the continent hardest hit by the pandemic.

For the first time, a special segment of the population that has largely been overlooked will be targeted for "voluntary counseling and testing" or VCT - the provision of counseling and HIV/AIDS testing services.

The project is the first in Kenya to be built with U.S. funding from a five-year, $15-billion HIV/AIDS initiative for Africa and the Caribbean, announced by President Bush during his 2003 State of the Union address.

Kenya is one of 14 countries that will benefit from the funding.

Deputy U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Leslie Rowe, said the VCT facility's opening was a "big gain" in the fight against AIDS among disadvantaged sectors of the Kenyan population.

Personnel from the CDC, U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Peace Corps will be involved in the project.

A further part of the funding allocated to Kenya from the U.S. initiative is now being used to provide free, anti-retroviral drugs to AIDS patients.

Ministry of Health officials said the target is to provide 140,000 people with the life-prolonging drugs, without charge, by 2005.

Rowe said the U.S. would be "working closely with Kenya" to see that the funding was used to reach that target.

Provision of free anti-retroviral drugs is being promoted by the U.N. Joint Program on AIDS and the World Health Organization, which hope to see three million people around the world getting the medication by 2005.

Despite the advances on the ground, Africa issues campaigners in Washington charge that actual U.S. funding levels are insufficient.

Many critics have also complained about the one-year delay between Bush's speech and the announcement of the first round of grants, and about the fact that the U.S. funding will not mostly go to existing multilateral efforts like the U.N.-backed Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Salih Booker, executive director of Africa Action, said Bush's 2005 budget request "reveals the misplaced priorities of the current administration."

"AIDS represents the greatest threat to human security in the world today, but while the president requested more than $400 billion for military defense, he asked for less than one percent of this amount to fight the deadly global threat of HIV/AIDS."

Africa Action said the budget request also meant funding cuts to the Global Fund, which it described as crucial in combating those diseases in poor countries.

The Global Fund was set up two years ago with U.S. and U.N. assistance.

Washington, however, plans to distribute most of the AIDS funding through U.S. agencies. This will, among other things, enable the administration to earmark funding for programs promoting abstinence.

Copyright © 2000 by the Cybercast News Service.