53 African countries meet in Brazzaville to discuss scaling up of HIV prevention
Mar 8, 2006 - 10:01:37 PM
Two hundred and fifty-nine participants from 53 African countries, representing governments, parliamentarians, national AIDS councils, faith-based organizations and civil society organizations, including people living with HIV, and development partners are gathered in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, for a continent-wide consultative meeting on scaling up HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in Africa towards Universal Access. Eight country delegations are headed by their respective ministers of health.
Hosted by the Republic of Congo, present Chair of the African Union, the consultation is convened by the African Union Commission in cooperation with UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO). The meeting provides a platform for stakeholders to clarify and prioritize the major challenges and obstacles blocking comprehensive and integrated scaling up of prevention, treatment care and support services. It will also explore practical ways of overcoming these obstacles identified in Africa.
In her opening statement at the meeting, the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Adv. Bience Gawanas, stated that it was imperative that Africa develop a common position on Universal Access based on its understanding and experiences.
Michel Sidibe, Director of UNAIDS Country and Regional Support Department and Co-chair of the Global Steering Committee on Scaling up towards Universal Access, stated that the worldwide movement towards Universal Access aimed to achieve a renewed global commitment that no longer seeks to contain the epidemic, but to halt and reverse its progress.
In his statement, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, insisted on the vital necessity of giving as much weight to prevention as to treatment, care and support in HIV programmes, pointing out that African ministers of health had already given universal access in Africa a boost by declaring 2006 the Year for Acceleration of HIV prevention in the African Region. He added that the 3 by 5 initiative had highlighted the improtance of using existing opportunities and health infrastructure to deliver atiretroviral therapy and scale up HIV prevention even in resource-limited settings.
Dr Sambo also stressed the need to focus more attention on the vulnerable segments of the population, particularly women and children.
Between December 2005 and February 2006, national consultations were successfully conducted in 41 countries in Africa: 17 countries out of 20 in the Eastern and Southern Africa sub regions, 20 out of 25 in West and Central Africa, 4 out of 7 in the Middle East and the North African subregion. An estimated 5000 country-level stakeholders participated, including community-based organizations, civil society groups, and people living with HIV.
The Brazzaville consultation is discussing key issues related to scaling up towards Universal Access including: how best to combat the stigma, discrimination and gender imbalance that make the lives of people living with HIV so difficult; how Africa will sustain financially its HIV programmes over a long period; how it will ensure sufficient human resources, of good quality, operating in efficient health and social systems; how it will ensure access of all Africans who need them to affordable commodities and low-cost technology, including the male and female condom and inexpensive anti-retrovirals; and mechanisms for holding all stakeholders accountable for their commitments.
The outcome of the consultation will be presented at the African Union Special Summit scheduled to take place in Abuja, Nigeria, in May and will constitute Africas contribution to the 2006 United Nations Summit on AIDS in June.
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