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The West African Republic of Senegal has a population of 10 million 95 percent Muslim and there are about 80000 cases of HIV-AIDS in the country. It seems like a large number but in fact, at about 2 percent of the population, it's very low in comparison to other countries. And this percentage rate has not increased for the last ten years. The United Nations recognises this success and has named Senegal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Uganda, as countries which have done the most to fight HIV-AIDS. How has Senegal achieved this? The political stability of the country over the past few decades has been an important factor. But what other things may have contributed to this success story? There is no doubt that social and religious values are an important factor. The Senegalese culture is traditional and religious belief is strong. This means that there is less sexual activity outside of marriage than in many societies. And many young people still believe in the traditional values of no sex before marriage and being faithful to your husband or wife.

Many nations in the world have strong religious and social values, but the Senegalese government decided early on that the subject of HIV-AIDS must be discussed openly. Political, religious and community leaders could not treat it as a taboo subject. This wasn't easy. Speaking openly about the use of condoms means accepting that people may have sex outside of marriage. Religious leaders spoke about HIV-AIDS and condoms in the mosques. They still talked about sexual abstinence and fidelity as the best way to avoid becoming infected, but they also recommended condoms for those people who were not going to abstain from sex.

The National Plan to Fight HIV-AIDS was already in operation in 1987, less than a year after the first cases were diagnosed in Senegal. Its aim was information, education and prevention and it was the first such campaign in Africa. A compulsory class was introduced into the national curriculum in schools. Private companies were encouraged to hold classes for their workers. The government gave the campaign strong support and a regular budget and the religious leaders became strong supporters too. Senegal has a long tradition of local community organisations and there were marches and workshops all over the country. High-risk groups such as sex workers, soldiers and lorry drivers were specially targeted. Women were particularly important in this process. Senegal recognised that women need more than education and condoms. They need to have the economic and social power to say No to unprotected sex. Many young, popular musicians also became involved in the campaign reaching young people all over the country. Prostitution was legalised in Senegal in the 1960s. Sex workers were registered and had to have regular medical check-ups.

Anyone who was suffering from a sexually transmitted disease was treated free of charge. This system gave Senegal two big advantages in the war on HIV-AIDS. Firstly, it wasn't too difficult to extend the system of testing and treatment to HIV-AIDS. And secondly, the fact that sex workers were registered and known to the authorities meant that it was easy to reach them with education programmes. Many prostitutes themselves became involved in educating other women, and distributing free condoms. Twenty years ago fewer than 1 million condoms were used in Senegal. Now the figure is more than 10 million.

In 1970, Senegal began testing all the donated blood in its blood banks. So, unlike many Western countries, infected blood transfusions never caused the spread of the virus. Senegal has HIV-AIDS scientists who are known and respected all over the world. Professor Souleymane Mboup, is a world-renowned AIDS researcher. He is most famous for his work on documenting HIV2, a strain of the AIDS virus which is common in West Africa. Professor Mboup is in charge of his country's National AIDS Programme. He co-ordinates the Convention of Research between Senegal and Harvard University in the United States. He also works with the African AIDS Research Network. So far so good, but Senegal itself knows that it still has a long way to go. The biggest challenge is to hold on to what has already been achieved. Many experts are afraid that this initial success will spread a false sense of security and people will become less careful. One problem is that Senegal is a regional crossroads. Many men go to work in neighbouring countries and return infected with the virus.

There is still a great deal of poverty in the country and many people cannot read or write. HIV-AIDS grows well in these conditions. Large numbers of prostitutes are working secretly without registration. Many sex workers cannot afford to refuse customers who don't wear condoms. And if women had more economic power they would not have to turn to prostitution to feed their families in the first place. So Senegal must continue with the work. And maybe we can all learn a little from what the country has achieved so far.
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  |  9267 learners#Health #Stories

The person who takes medicine must recover twice, once from the disease and once from the medicine.

If all the medicine in the world were thrown into the sea, it would be bad for the fish and good for humanity.

Alternative medicine has become much more popular in the West in recent years. It seems that people are becoming increasingly worried about the side effects of drugs, and are turning to treatments such as homeopathy, osteopathy, yoga, reflexology and acupuncture to complement, or sometimes even replace, Western medicine.

An event in my life three or four years ago made me examine my own attitudes towards alternative medicine. After suffering from insomnia for a few months, I was feeling mentally and physically exhausted. A trip to my GP, and attempts at self-medication with nightly doses of Guinness and whisky, failed to bring any relief from my condition. My friend Tony, who was studying acupuncture at a college near London at the time, suggested that I visit an acupuncturist. Since I have a healthy fear of needles from waiting in line for vaccinations in gloomy school corridors, I was reluctant to take his advice, but by this time I was so tired that I was prepared to try almost anything.

I made an appointment with the only acupuncturist in my area, and after another nearly sleepless night, turned up at his room in the local alternative health centre the following morning. After taking my pulse, looking at my tongue, and asking a few questions about my diet and lifestyle, the acupuncturist correctly deduced that I was worn-out I found this extremely impressive since he hadn't asked me why I had come to see him. He then inserted a needle in my right foot between my first and second toe, and, despite my anxiety, I fell asleep immediately. At the time I considered the whole experience to be close to a miracle.

Acupuncture is based on the idea that energy flows through the human body along 12 lines or meridians. These meridians end up at organs in the body, and illness is the result of a blockage of the energy flow to these organs. To remove the blockage, an acupuncturist inserts very fine needles into the body at points along the meridians. This stimulates the flow of energy, and restores the patient's health.

Traditional Chinese medicine has been practised for around 3000 years in the Far East, but is relatively recent in the West, and acupuncture only really became well-known in the West in the 1970s as people began to travel more frequently between the two areas of the world.

A significant event in the history of acupuncture came in 1971, when a journalist from the New York Times had his appendix removed in China, when on a trip to the country with Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State for the USA. Surgeons used acupuncture to deaden the pain of the operation, which greatly impressed Kissinger.

Although at first doctors in the West were often sceptical of the medical value of acupuncture, in the last few years it has become more established as an alternative to Western medical treatments, since clinical tests have shown that acupuncture is effective for a number of conditions.

In the Far East acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of complaints, and is also used as a preventative medicine, since it is thought to increase the body's resistance to infection. In the West, the treatment is often used to relieve headaches, dental pain, back pain, and arthritis, and to treat depression, asthma, stress, high blood pressure and anxiety.

Since acupuncture is known to be effective against pain, it is not surprising that many sportspeople have experimented with acupuncture when fighting injury. Martina Hingis, the famous tennis player, had a wrist injury cured through treatment, and English Premier Division football club Bolton Wanderers employ an acupuncturist to keep their squad in good physical condition. While in Korea for the World Cup in 2002, Soo Ji Chim, a Korean form of acupuncture, was very popular with the German football team.

Cherie Blair, a well-known human rights lawyer, and the wife of the British Prime Minister, was recently spotted wearing an acupuncture needle in her ear, suggesting that she uses the treatment to cope with stress. The Queen of England is also interested in acupuncture, although she doesn't use the treatment herself she and many of her family rely on another alternative medical treatment, homeopathy, to keep them healthy.

Finally, if you do decide to visit an acupuncturist, it is important that you check that they are qualified and registered to practise acupuncture. In the past some people have experienced allergic reactions, broken needles and even punctured lungs while being treated, although this is very uncommon.
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