HIV/AIDS in Senegal
Senegal has a low prevalence of HIV, at under 1% of the adult population.
Although Senegal is a very poor country, it has maintained a low HIV prevalence. With a “concentrated” epidemic, the general population in Senegal has remained relatively free of AIDS, though vulnerable populations have significantly higher prevalence; among commercial sex workers, for example, prevalence is around 17%.
Senegal’s success at maintaining a low overall prevalence has been attributed to the confluence of a number of factors, including strong political leadership, early involvement and leadership among religious leaders, conservative cultural norms regarding sexual practices, and a comprehensive strategic approach implemented early in the epidemic. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Senegal’s success at maintaining a low prevalence among the general population can be attributed to the country’s rapid and consistent implementation of several measures such as: reinforcement of the national blood supply (which had been systematically tested for syphilis and hepatitis since the 1970 in order to prevent HIV transmission through blood transfusions); the provision of appropriate equipment and personnel trained in HIV testing to regional and national blood banks; HIV education programs; registration and regular medical checkups for commercial sex workers (harm reduction measures which allow access to condoms and health services in this high risk population); promotion of condom use in the general population (dissemination of millions of condoms through social marketing programs to the general population and free distribution to high-risk populations).
Senegal's policies are considered to be successful in the control of the spread of HIV. Challenges to continued success include population movement across borders, high HIV prevalence among commercial sex workers, and the need to reach young people approaching sexual debut.
Senegal responded rapidly to the first emergence of HIV/AIDS in the mid-1980s, establishing the Programme National de Lutte contre le SIDA (National Program for the Fight against AIDS) in 1986, renamed as the Conseil National de Lutte contre le SIDA (National Council for the Fight against AIDS) in 2002. The national program quickly undertook significant measures to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission, including condom promotion; sentinel surveillance to determine the scope and spread of the epidemic; confidential counseling and testing; education of sex workers; and integration of HIV into sex education.
From the start of the epidemic, the government worked actively to involve religious and community leaders in HIV/AIDS prevention. In 1995, a national conference resulted in a proclamation of support for HIV prevention activities and a partnership between health care providers and Muslim and Christian religious leaders in the fight against AIDS. This approach combines outreach programs targeting high-risk populations with condom promotion and other prevention efforts, while simultaneously, through the participation of religious leaders and faith-based organizations, reinforcing the traditional sexual norms that have protected Senegal from a widespread HIV/AIDS epidemic. Muslim religious leaders, in particular, have been at the forefront of the national response, preaching about HIV/AIDS in mosques and incorporating AIDS education into religious teaching programs. Both Muslim and Christian organizations provide care and psychosocial services and promote tolerance.
The government’s 2002–2006 strategy continues to emphasize a multisectoral approach that includes the participation of government ministries, the private sector, and religious and civil society organizations, as well as persons living with HIV/AIDS. Priority action areas include prevention, blood safety, sexually transmitted infections, mother-to-child transmission, and social mobilization. A sentinel surveillance survey conducted from late 2004 to early 2005 will provide new information on the state of the epidemic.
- "Health Profile: Senegal". United States Agency for International Development (December 2004). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.