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AIDS Campaign Enrages HIV Infected Swazis

Text messages between lovers was imitated by a government AIDS awareness campaign in Swaziland, a country with the world's highest HIV rates. This enraged activists// who feel it suggests that people living with the disease are promiscuous.

Pictures of a mobile phone screen bearing text messages like 'Let's have a quickie, my husband's not around', or 'Come over now, my husband is out' features in the 'Makhwapheni Uyabulala' campaign, which means 'Secret lovers kill'.

A group supporting people with HIV is against this campaign which ran on national TV, radio and in newspapers. It feels that this campaign is offensive and will dissuade people from revealing their HIV status.

'This campaign stigmatises against people living with HIV and AIDS and seems to suggest that they contracted the virus because they were promiscuous,' said Vusi Matsebula, national executive co-ordinator for the Swaziland National Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (SWANNEPHA).

Around 40% of the adults in Swaziland are infected with HIV. This campaign by the government-backed National Emergency Response Council on HIV and AIDS (NERCHA) was meant to discourage multiple sexual partners.

But according to activists, infidelity, is just one of the many factors involved in the spread of HIV. The failure to use condoms is the main problem.

Sibusiso Mngadi, head of communications of NERCHA, declared the campaign a success because it had sparked a debate on HIV. The campaign had aimed at changing sexual behaviour to reduce the spread of the virus.

SWANNEPHA protested and threatened to take legal action. This made NERCHA to withdraw most of the advertisements earlier this month . Still some continued on national radio.

Polygamy and multiple sexual partners are the major causes for HIV spread in Swaziland. Some activists feel the king -- sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch -- sets a bad example as he has 13 wives .

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