In western and southern Africa, where most sub-Saharan oilfield activity occurs, AIDS is one of the main health concerns of most operators and service companies. Approximately 40 million persons are infected with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. This represents over two-thirds of the worldwide infected population. Although HIV/AIDS is not a work-related disease, most operators and services companies recognize that it affects their workforce and operations.

Most oilfield companies aim to recruit and train the vast majority of their work force locally. One barrier to doing so is that, in the oilfield environment, the infection rate and exposure to HIV/AIDS tends to be high due to factors that are analyzed in this paper. Although some oilfield operators have started to implement HIV/AIDS programs, most service companies do not have clear policies and standards for prevention and risk mitigation.

In this paper, we review the main factors that contribute to HIV/AIDS risk of infection in oil-producing countries in western and southern Africa. Barriers to prevention are analyzed using a survey of a service company's employees. The survey results are used to determine the extent and the root causes of the problem.

Using findings from this study, we outline elements of a prevention program specifically designed for the oilfield work environment.

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