Unsterilized Equipment Contributing to African AIDS Epidemic

While unsterilized needles pose serious health risks, especially when it comes to the spreading of blood borne illnesses like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis, anything that could potentially come in contact with human blood poses the same risk.

Barber equipment is particularly susceptible to this. Scissors, trimmers, and razor blades can all pierce the skin and be infected with diseases, but many people do not understand the importance of cleaning them appropriately because they lack the same stigma that is attached to needles.

While strict measures in the U.S. have largely kept this regulated, other countries are facing epidemics of disease that are spread in part due to poorly cleaned barber shop equipment.

Doctors in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania have had serious issues with this in recent months. The Kilimanjaro Regional Medical doctor, Mtumwa Mwanko, has tried to keep barbers informed on appropriate sterilization methods, but pervasive beliefs that alcohol and chemicals are enough to clean equipment have made things difficult.

“It is wrong for barbers to use shaving tools which have not been cleaned with hot water. The spirits alone cannot kill the virus,” said Mwanko in a recent interview.

Dr. Abdul Kareem, another Tanzanian medical specialist, added that individuals with minor injuries on their scalps might not be aware of them. They are at the highest risk of contracting deadly diseases from machines that have not been properly disinfected.

Investigation undertaken by the All Africa newspaper in Moshi, Tanzania, revealed that most barbers are not ignoring The Ministry of Health and Social Welfares procedures, they are simply ignorant of them. Interviewed residents said many barbers are convinced that alcohol can kill any bacteria on their blades and take no further action to combat HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS continues to run rampant across the African continent, and any and all efforts must be made to combat the disease if the tide of illness is going to be stemmed. Barbers have a responsibility to their clients and to society to make sure that their equipment is properly sterilized and that they follow the guidelines of their local health agencies.


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