Police, military resolve to tackle HIV/AIDS within their ranks

Committees to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS have been created within the national army and police force of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following a seminar to inform officers on the pandemic, Dr Emile Numbi Saleh, head of the sexually-transmitted infections unit of the Congo's national programme to fight AIDS (Programme national de lutte contre le sida - PNLS), told IRIN on Friday.

"These committees should enable a better coordination in the fight against AIDS within the army as well as the police, but their exact forms and structures have not yet been decided," Numbi said.

A follow-up committee has been entrusted with finalising these matters.

The seminar on HIV/AIDS was held at the end of September at the Binza Ozone Military Centre in the capital, Kinshasa. It was geared toward members of the military and police owing to their living and work conditions, which often contribute to sexually promiscuous behaviour.

Seminar participants said that it was not unusual for several military or police force families to live together under the same roof, for example, and can find themselves posted to stations far from their homes and families.

"Military and police authorities came to understand the threat of HIV/AIDS and resolved to immediately join the fight," military physician Col Kabanda told IRIN.

Among the recommendations made by participants in the seminar were calls for improved living conditions and the rehabilitation of health services within the military and police.

The seminar was jointly organised by the PNLS and the ministries of defence and interior, with the support of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, and the UN Development Programme.