'I WANT to return to my village to be a fisherman again," the AIDS patient says, sitting next to an encouraging nurse in a hospital near this rural trading town. AIDS is not just an urban phenomenon in Africa. It has also hit villages and small towns, though not as hard.
While an estimated 7 percent of the 3 million people in Zaire's capital, Kinshasa, have the AIDS virus, the percentage is about 5 percent here in semirural Kimpese and 2 percent in villages, according to Stephen Green, a pediatrician who heads an AIDS research program at the Evangelical Medical Institute, a local hospital.
But Zaire's AIDS-prevention campaign is having less impact here than in Kinshasa, Dr. Green says, because both television and radio reception are poor in this area.
The local methods of spreading the word on AIDS are through song and drama, he says, both of which are popular in rural areas.
Beatrice Musuenge, a nurse at the missionary hospital here, says "lack of information, and doubt about the existence of AIDS" are major problems.
Another problem is the degree of "sexual liberties" taken by both sexes, including those who are minors, she says.
AIDS patients are not always told they have been diagnosed as having AIDS, even if they can afford the $1-to-$2 test to find out. People often are reluctant to face the possibility they or someone in their family may have AIDS, Green says.
Rural hospitals especially are being strained by the addition of AIDS patients to their normal load, Green says. He notes that malnutrition and some other diseases are even greater problems than AIDS.
Medical budgeters around the world need to remember this and not divert a disproportionate amount to fighting AIDS, Green says.