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Sante. 1997 Mar-Apr;7(2):127-34.

[10 years' research in the social sciences on AIDS in Burkina Faso. Elements for prevention].

[Article in French]

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Sociétés d'Afrique et sida, Université de Bordeaux II, France.


The first cases of AIDS in Burkina Faso were reported in 1986. During the past ten years, there have been several types of research conducted in Burkina Faso in the field of social sciences, including KABP, focus groups, and ethnographic studies. This article reviews approximately 100 publications and presents the results most relevant to prevention. Although general knowledge of the disease, its transmission and means of protection has improved, part of the population remains poorly informed; erroneous ideas remain prevalent and certain concepts, for example asymptomatic infection, are ignored. Young women in rural areas have the poorest knowledge. Understanding the information is conditioned by underlying perceptions of blood and physiology, the "components of the person", pre-existent and sexually transmitted diseases, and modes of transmission. Research on sexuality has elucidated the age at which individuals become sexually active, and paramatrimonial practices. The prevalence of STD is high. STD are mostly treated by traditional practitioners or by automedication. Family planning is insufficiently developed. AIDS prevention should be integrated into wider considerations of reproductive health. The popular perception that "Others" are responsible for bringing AIDS into the country has often been reinforced by health messages. Consequently, people do not sufficiently consider themselves vulnerable to HIV infection. The populations that are most vulnerable, for various reasons that have been analysed, include young girls and women, married women, prostitutes, truck drivers, and young men from rural areas. The message "Fidelity or condom" has been widely used. However, it has hindered the generalisation of the use of condoms, because asking for a condom consequently implies distrust of the partner. The interpretation of fidelity is diverse, and many people who choose this means of prevention believe erroneously that they are protected. Studies of the social impact of AIDS reveal fragmentation of society, reactions causing social exclusion and discriminative practices, and no social visibility of HIV infected persons. After ten years of preventive actions, the prevalence of HIV is still increasing, evidence of the failure of the preventive strategies. It is no longer sufficient to see prevention as the transfer of knowledge from professionals to the population. Preventive strategies such as voluntary testing and the participation of HIV+ persons in informative actions need to be developed. Prevention should be understood on new bases. The concept of "vulnerability" might help the definition of in-depth actions and also focus interventions. The idea of developing social cohesion to confront the epidemic may help avoid some of the adverse consequences of previous actions. Do these concepts conform to current AIDS prevention attitudes? To answer this question, social scientists should study the ideologies, knowledge, beliefs, and practices of institutions and professionals working in the field of AIDS prevention.

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