The importance of interdisciplinary collaborative research in responding to HIV/AIDS vulnerability in rural Senegal


HIV prevalence in Senegal is less than 1%, a success generally attributed to the country's quick response to the nascent epidemic of the 1980s and its continued efforts to curtail the spread of HIV. However, as the bulk of the healthcare infrastructure and support for HIV-positive individuals and AIDS patients are located in urban areas, there remains limited information on HIV and AIDS prevalence in rural areas. Several focus group discussions held with small-holder farmers in 2006, in the regions of Kolda and Tambacounda, Senegal, in the framework of a regional food-security development programme, revealed the growing vulnerability of rural populations to HIV and AIDS. Because current HIV/AIDS campaigns are strongly influenced by generalised, internationally formulated guidelines that fail to take into account the cultural particularities of the Senegalese context, the initial positive impact of these campaigns has dramatically decreased and at-risk behaviour in rural Senegal has been found to be on the increase. The article argues that in order for HIV/AIDS campaigns to have an impact there is an urgent need for evidence-based approaches built on a deeper understanding of the local socio-cultural situation through interdisciplinary research and collaboration.

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