Island nation gets Global Fund assistance

An initiative has been launched to mitigate the potential rise in the HIV/AIDS infection rate in Madagascar.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) announced on Friday that it had received more than US $1.5 million to combat HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Madagascar. The grant, which would cover a four-year project in two areas of the country, comes from the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, is located off the southeast coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean and is home to about 16 million people.

"HIV prevalence in Madagascar is less than 1 percent. At the same time, the incidence of STIs on the island is very high, and we know that this is an indicator of a potential rise in HIV infections," Jennifer Overton, CRS' Country Representative for Madagascar, said in a statement.

"This funding will help us to treat people with STIs, as well as educate people about HIV/AIDS and keep what has happened on the African continent from happening here," she added.

CRS said the project would reach more than 147,000 people and would focus on two cities: Antsirabe, an industrial and transport hub, and Ilakaka, the centre of Madagascar's sapphire mining industry. "Building on existing programmes in these areas, CRS and local partners will expand access to STI testing, counselling services and treatment and provide HIV/AIDS life skills and behaviour change education," the NGO said.

CRS has operated in Madagascar since 1962, with programmes across the island focusing on maternal health and child survival. The organisation serves nearly two million people affected by HIV/AIDS in 31 countries around the world, with particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. The agency works with local partners and communities to provide care and support for those living with AIDS and seeks to reduce stigma and the spread of the disease through education.