unlike it\'s neighbours, france is only now starting to tackle hiv. tara patel talks to the people working to curb the epidemic
When the pharmacy opposite the police station is closed, a different pharmacy is in operation on the exterior and colon;
A machine that sells clean needles for drug addicts.
The so-called \"distribution area\" is one of the first distribution areas in France.
In exchange for the token distributed in the pharmacy, it provides a kit worth 10 francs (£1. 20)
Two-needle syringe, sterile water for injection, alcohol-
Soaked cotton swabs, condoms and information on how to prevent HIV transmission.
Since the installation of the breakout box in June, it has distributed about ten kits every night.
Customers can get tokens for the evening
Time is used when they buy a kit during the day.
Gennevilliers, along with several other French towns, took their own actions in trying to stop HIV from spreading through shared needles.
Its aggressive action comes as the government finally comes up with a practical plan to stop the spread of the virus among drug users, who have long been criticized for not taking action on AIDS.
France has more AIDS cases than any other country in Europe, and Paris alone is more than Britain.
Successive French health ministers opposed the need to take measures to reduce the spread of HIV.
Now, in the face of the latest shocking statistics, the government is encouraging needle supply for drug users, reducing the price of condoms and carrying out large-scale advertising campaigns.
But critics say it\'s too little and too late to do.
According to the latest WHO data, since the AIDS epidemic began, France has reported 744 cases of AIDS.
This is about three times as much as Germany or the UK, and even more than Spain and Italy, where a large number of injecting drug users are infected with HIV.
Every year, the number of people living with AIDS in France is almost three times that in Britain, although the population of the two countries is similar.
Due to the long delay between HIV infection and AIDS, these cases reflect what happened a few years ago.
But the current estimate of HIV infection can cause more trouble.
It is estimated that there are as many as 300 injecting drug users in France and Cologne;
Anything between a quarter and a third could be HIV-positive.
The AIDS epidemic in France and Britain is also different.
In Britain, three of the four AIDS patients are gay.
The situation in France is more complicated.
In all cases of AIDS, gay men account for less than half of all cases, and drug addicts in almost one quarter.
About AIDS patients are infected with HIV through heterosexual sex.
These differences show how difficult it is to predict the spread of viruses so heavily dependent on human behavior.
France is like a miniature Europe, says Jean.
Paris head, Batist Brunet
Headquartered in the European Center for the monitoring of the AIDS epidemic.
The disease affects mostly gay men in northern Europe and injecting drug users in southern countries, but France spans both countries.
He said the country\'s epidemic is bigger than its neighbors because the infection is widely spread among different groups.
Epidemiology and Health workers say that due to moral aversion, public apathy and even opposition from the medical community, France has largely ignored gay men, drug addicts and other marginalized groups at risk of infection.
Now, ten years after the discovery of HIV, it has begun to change its tone.
We have to speed up, says Philip duster.
On July, France\'s deputy health minister, blazzy, announced the government\'s drug-taking plan.
We must know when to get out of the experiment.
At the heart of the program is a project to reduce the risk of blood-borne infections by providing drug addicts with clean syringes and opening the potion methadone
Heroin that can be sucked in your mouth.
Strategies like this have been established in countries such as the UK and the Netherlands that believe HIV is a greater threat to public health than substance abuse.
But until 1987, you can\'t even buy needles and syringes in France unless you have a prescription.
Even now, at least one of the five pharmacies refuses to sell, or only sells in bulk. But by mid-
In September, all 23 000 pharmacies across the country will sell kits like Gennevilliers, 5 francs per serving.
The law is being amended to allow voluntary health groups to provide drugs to drug users.
In other European countries, since the early days of the AIDS epidemic, voluntary groups and public health authorities have implemented a needle exchange program where users can safely handle their old \"jobs\" and get clean
But by 1993, there were only three needle exchange projects in France.
The government says there will be 25 by the end of this year.
It also hopes that other cities will follow the example of genevey.
But so far there are only five constituencies in the country, and Jacques Chirac, the mayor of Paris, has firmly refused to allow them to enter his city.
July 30, this week).
The government also wants to expand supply to methadone.
Its existing policies limit the number of people who can receive it & colon nationwide;
Only 52 people registered last year.
By contrast, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and the United Kingdom have received at least 10 000 heroin per person through various types of treatment programmes.
French Minister of Social Affairs Simone Veil said there would be nearly 1700 places by the end of this year.
But many critics say there is still more to be done.
Bertrand Lebeau, organized by Medecins du Monde, launched the first needle exchange programme in Paris in 1989, expressing contempt for the previous government\'s HIV policy.
He said that the country\'s slow response to the problem of injecting drug users is a criminal act, and the current move is only \"window decoration \".
He hopes that at least 10 per cent of drug addicts will be able to take the drug immediately.
While action against this group may be the most serious overdue, sex remains the primary avenue for HIV transmission.
In the past, the French used condoms a lot less often than in most European countries.
In 1988, for example, France sold only 61 million condoms, compared with 0. 139 billion in the UK.
In France, condoms are traditionally linked to sexually transmitted diseases, and with the emergence of birth control pills, condoms are almost abandoned as a means of contraception.
Major studies on sexual behavior in France (
December 5, 1992, this week)
It is concluded that, while more and more people, especially young people, use condoms, they are still not popular enough to have an impact on the prevention of HIV transmission.
The study found that
Claims that there were more than one sexual male partner in the previous year, and one in every three people said they had unprotected sex;
Half of the women interviewed said their partner did not use condoms.
But most also say they are more likely to use condoms if they are cheaper.
Last year, duster-
Blazy persuaded pharmacies and condom manufacturers to give up high profits and produce condoms at a price of 1 franc per piece, a quarter of the normal price.
After the initial problem brought the project to the ground (
April 30, this week), Douste-
Blazy announced on June that although some pharmacies refused to sell 1-
The program has been successful and condoms are becoming more and more popular.
But providing condoms alone is not enough, said Nathalie Bajos, one of the coordinators of Sexual Studies, based in INSERM, the national organization for medical research.
She said there is an urgent need for effective sex education in schools to inform young people about the dangers of AIDS.
We have to go beyond the eggs and sperm in the classroom, she said.
In last February, the government said it would carry out sex education in schools.
No news has been announced so far.
No matter what the government is doing now, it is impossible to quell the fear of those who predict worse & Cologne;
The AIDS cases reported today are only the beginning, according to epidemiology.
Recent studies of HIV among people at high risk indicate that the epidemic is unstable and is expanding.
Critics say the government\'s new initiatives are still failing to reach those most at risk.
\'I personally think France is lagging behind in organizing activities against the most concerned groups,\' Mr. Brune said.
A study of 432 men and women who entered the bowmat prison in Marseille at the end of 1992 showed that people were infected with HIV.
The authors believe that with homosexuality and sharing needles, more repeat offenders are infected and prison life itself may be a risk factor.
Among gay men in France, studies have shown that dangerous activities such as unprotected penetration still exist.
In recent years, after French gay or bisexual men tested negative a year or two ago, the proportion of HIV testing positive has remained at around 11 of concern.
Dominic Costa Liola, an AIDS epidemiology at INSERM, said this may indicate that a new generation of young men are taking risks.
\"There are very few public initiatives to address these issues --
It is called a marginal population in France.
Stephane Korsia, a non-profit organizer
Unlike gay men in northern Europe and the United States, gay men in France have just begun to organize as a community.
Returning to Gennevilliers, the local director of medical services, Alain Tyrode, did not wait for instructions from Paris.
He has started organizing volunteers to go to school to talk about sex with the children.
\'I think in France, where HIV is found, we are looking forward to finding a vaccine against AIDS soon,\' he said.
\"The Prevention Plan has just been put on hold.