Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"It is prohibited to indulge in sex in the Sudan," claims an UNMIS (United Nations Mission in Sudan) statement today.

After a quick panic at the thought that I may have begun broadcasting the joyous news about my man a bit too widely, I read on and begin to realise that this is referring to another piece of news that is a bit bigger and more serious than mine (namely the UN clarifying its rules for staff in relation to the events described below):

Two African Union soldiers deployed to Darfur have died of HIV/AIDS complications, the Ministry of Health (and later the African Union) confirmed this week. Sad as this may be, it is hardly surprising in a continent as ravaged by the HIV/AIDS virus as Africa. What is somewhat surprising - and probably quite worrying - is the public reaction and scare-mongering that seems to be kicking off around this announcement.

The Ministry of Health is ranting about wanting to screen all arriving peacekeepers for HIV/AIDS, and oh - while they're at it - all those morally-challenged foreigners too. Foreigners carrying the HIV/AIDS virus will no longer be issued with residents' permits for Sudan.

The African Union has hit back with a press statement today to say that the deaths, while regrettable, are statistically insignificant - and that it has full confidence in the efforts of the troop-contributing countries to carry out their own medical screens as necessary.

Al Yaum, one of the seven major newspapers that apparently carried this story (the one I saw on the front page) trumpets the warning that "2 AMIS soldiers die of HIV/AIDS - African Union to increase forces in Darfur to 18,000 by next year" (if only - at the moment, there are a mere 5471 troops, and everyone I speak to is still sceptical that we will get to 7700, never mind the 12,000 that the NGOs are demanding)

It's fair to say all of this raises a lot of concerns - including the question of whether this will cause even more delays in getting the promised African Union troops deployed to Darfur by the (already extended) October deadline...


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