American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting location:San Francisco (USA) date:19-23 November 2008
Senegal has an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of less than 1%, a success generally attributed to the country's quick response to the epidemic in the early 1980s and continued efforts to curtail the spread of the epidemic. However, as the bulk of the healthcare infrastructure and support for HIV-positive individuals and AIDS patients are located in urban areas, there exists little accurate information on HIV/AIDS in rural areas. Focus group interviews with rural women held in 2006 in the regions of Kolda and Tambacounda revealed that the stigma of AIDS remains an enormous problem in rural Senegal. HIV/AIDS is generally equated with unavoidable death, divorce, and the economic collapse of the family despite the fact that most of the participants in these focus groups had already attended one or more local HIV/AIDS campaign. The ineffectiveness of HIV/AIDS awareness messages in rural areas is strongly related to their lack of cultural sensitivity, just following pre-prepared routines and patterns and overlooking the specific cultural particularities in multi-ethnic rural Senegal. There is an urgent need for interdisciplinary research and collaboration between anthropologists and HIV/AIDS experts from other disciplines, to provide culturally appropriate awareness education campaigns that will be meaningful for peer groups such as rural women, one of the groups in Senegal that are most vulnerable to become infected with HIV.