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MSF Hands Over Mongolia HIV/AIDS Programs to Local Groups
July 2, 2001
Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia — After working to curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STI) in Mongolia for more than two years, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has completed its operations and will now transfer program management to Mongolian governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
In 1999, MSF, in close collaboration with the Mongolian Ministry of Health, launched a three-part approach to increase public awareness about HIV/AIDS, STIs and safe-sex issues. Efforts included the country's first safe-sex mass media campaigns, HIV/AIDS and STI counseling/training programs, and HIV/AIDS and STI information center. Although documented HIV infection rates in Mongolia were extremely low (there are only two confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS to date), Mongolian officials were concerned about rising rates of HIV/AIDS infections in neighboring Russia and China, and alarming increases in reported STI cases among the Mongolian people. MSF was already implementing a successful HIV/AIDS and safe-sex awareness campaign in Moscow; Mongolian health administrators hoped the same could be done for their country.
MSF's program included a two-phase mass-media campaign designed to relax conservative cultural attitudes inhibiting discussion of HIV/AIDS and safe sex issues. Messages were distributed using television and radio spots, outdoor advertising and brochures during two six-month campaigns in 2000 and 2001. Follow-up surveys showed they had reached their 15- to 25-year-old target audience, with more than 70 percent of respondents saying they had seen the campaigns and over 85 percent saying they approved of them. More importantly, those who saw the campaigns were 50 percent more likely to use condoms and practice safe sex than those who did not. The Ministry of Health and other organizations are currently exploring the possibility of conducting additional mass media campaigns.
MSF also focused efforts on the Mongolian health-care community, creating the country's first pre- and post-HIV/STI test counseling programs designed to provide specialized training for health professionals. More than 250 members of the Mongolian health care community from all 21 provinces have been trained since the operation began, with many establishing training programs of their own. This program will be continued by 12 trainers representing different specialties and operating under the direction of the Mongolian NGO Mongol Vision with support from the Ministry of Health. MSF helped establish the country's first HIV/AIDS and STI information and research facility to assist health professionals by providing accurate and up-to-date information about treatment, research and other issues. The center is now being administered by the Mongolian NGO National AIDS Foundation with the support of the Ministry of Health.