African Union and UN Agencies launch HIV Prevention Acceleration in Africa
Apr 11, 2006 - 12:14:37 PM

In an attempt at stepping up the pace of HIV prevention in the continent, the AU and United Nations system in Africa will on Tuesday 11 April 2006 launch “the Acceleration of Prevention of HIV Initiative in the African Region” in Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, Ouagadougou and Khartoum. This is a follow up to the Declaration by the African Ministers of Health in 2005 to declare 2006 as a “Year for Acceleration of HIV Prevention” in the African Region, and called on Member States to intensify HIV prevention efforts.
“Africa must now seize the moment to stop HIV,” says AU Commission Chairperson, Prof. Alpha Konare. “There are several proven interventions in the area of prevention; we have a secure and growing knowledge base to do the job; and there is unprecedented political commitment and increased funding to translate plans and programmes into services for our people”, he said.

The AU Commission and the UN agencies agree that acceleration of HIV prevention deserves more serious attention in line with the goal of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care by 2010.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, is of the opinion that the launch should serve as “a wake-up call” for Africa to take concrete measures to stop all forms of HIV infection. “We must promote widespread awareness of HIV and how it is caused, and media campaigns and education are the best ways to do this. Africans must embrace HIV counseling and testing; while governments, in collaboration with partners, must work together to ensure wide availability of HIV prevention services, together with antiretroviral therapy.

According to UNAIDS, HIV and AIDS pose the greatest threat to security and development in Africa, therefore "HIV prevention and HIV treatment should be pursued with vigour said Michel Sidibe UNAIDS Director of UNAIDS country and Regional Support Department. UNAIDS notes that the number of new infections occurring in Africa must be dramatically reduced in the next few years to ensure that treatment, care and support remain economically and socially sustainable.

UNICEF Regional Director for East and Southern Africa says: “It is unconscionable that every single day, nearly 2,000 infants are infected with HIV during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding -- most of them in sub-Saharan Africa -- and that every single day some 6,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 contract the virus. This year presents an opportunity to change the course of the virus and of history. We in UNICEF are ready to help in every way in turning the tide."

Series of activities have been planned for the simultaneous launch of the HIV prevention initiative in the four locations, with Addis Ababa being the main launch. This will take place at the AU Headquarters and dignitaries expected include Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, African Union Commission Chairperson, Professor Alpha Oumar Konare, the First Ladies of Rwanda and Ethiopia, representatives of UN, international and regional organizations, diplomatic corps, the private sector as well as youth and women associations, celebrities and People Living with HIV/AIDS.

Another launch ceremony will take place in Johannesburg on 11 April, which will bring together dignitaries including the country’s Minister of Health Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the SADC
Executive Secretary, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo and participants from various civil society organizations.

In Ouagadougou activities planned include a “parade of hope” by People Living with HIV and HIV, and a campaign to promote prevention of HIV among young people, while in Khartoum high level advocacy and public sensitization programmes have been put in place.

Apart from the four regional launches, national events are taking place in 46
African countries, involving the key decision makers, local communities and other relevant stakeholders. The overall goal of the campaign is to intensify HIV prevention acceleration on the Continent, and build a powerful political and social movement that can finally reverse and stop the spread of HIV which claimed 2.4 million African lives in 2005 alone.

Since the epidemic broke out in the 1980s, 50 million people in Africa have been infected, and 22 million have died; infant mortality, which had fallen by 50% between 1960 and 1990, is on the rise again. Life expectancy in some countries in the region has plummeted to 32 years; overall GDP in one country in the region has dropped to 1%, and agricultural production in another is projected to drop to 24 % by 2010. Africa currently has about 12 million AIDS orphans, and this could rise to 19 million by 2010. An estimated 3.2 million or 64% of the five million new infections globally occur in Africa, with women and children accounting for nearly half of these.

This alarming situation provides a strong justification for acceleration of HIV prevention on the Continent. In November 2005, seven UN agencies operating in Africa met in Brazzaville and adopted the Brazzaville Commitment in which they agreed to ensure synergy in implementing a joint regional plan to support acceleration of HIV prevention, including milestones for 2006 and mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of the plan. This resolution is in line with the Declaration and Road Map towards Universal Access adopted by the Second Session of the AU Conference of Ministers of Health in Gaborone in 2006.

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