Can African lead­ers de­liver on their HIV/AIDS prom­ises?

Daily Trust - - HEALTH -

Ahead of the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly 2016 High Level Meet­ing on End­ing AIDS (New York, 8th - 10th June 2016), the African Min­is­ters of Health held a meet­ing in Geneva, on Satur­day, 21st May 2016 and agreed on a Com­mon African Po­si­tion (CAP).

“The Com­mon Africa Po­si­tion is crit­i­cal in the po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions that are on­go­ing. It is im­per­a­tive that Africa ne­go­ti­ates as one block, highly im­pacted by AIDS, and de­mand a po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion that commits to bold strate­gies that aim to end the AIDS epi­demic as a pub­lic health threat by 2030”, said Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, the Com­mis­sioner for So­cial Af­fairs at the African Union Com­mis­sion.

The health min­is­ters agreed that through sus­tained lead­er­ship and po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment at var­i­ous lev­els, Africa has made sig­nif­i­cant progress in re­spond­ing to AIDS as a pub­lic health threat. The world achieved the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly Po­lit­i­cal Dec­la­ra­tion tar­get of hav­ing 15 mil­lion peo­ple on treat­ment by 2015, nine months ahead of sched­ule, with 10.7 mil­lion peo­ple on ART in Africa alone, up from fewer than 100,000 in 2002. As a re­sult, AIDS-re­lated deaths de­creased by 48% be­tween 2005 and 2014. New HIV in­fec­tions in Africa de­clined by 39% be­tween 2000 and 2014.

How­ever, the lead­ers were unan­i­mous to say that de­spite the un­par­al­leled progress, the AIDS epi­demic is an un­fin­ished busi­ness. At the end of 2014, there were 25.8 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing with HIV in Africa, South of the Sa­hara. Ap­prox­i­mately 800,000 peo­ple died of AIDS-re­lated causes in Africa South of the Sa­hara in 2014. Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis re­mains the lead­ing cause of death among peo­ple liv­ing with HIV. In 2014, there were an es­ti­mated 1.4 mil­lion new in­fec­tions, ap­prox­i­mately 70% of the global to­tal of new in­fec­tions.

Some of the com­mon po­si­tions taken in the meet­ing were:

• As the con­ti­nent heav­ily im­pacted by AIDS, the Com­mon Africa Po­si­tion de­mands a po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion that commits to bold strate­gies that aim to end the AIDS epi­demic as a pub­lic health threat by 2030.

• It seeks to com­mit to a po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion that has global tar­gets and strate­gies, as well as Africa-spe­cific tar­gets.

• The pro­posed tar­gets for Africa are to re­duce AIDS-re­lated deaths to less than 375,000 per year by 2020, and less than 150,000 per year by 2030; re­duce new HIV in­fec­tions to less than 375,000 per year by 2020, and less than 150,000 per year by 2030, and also end HIV-re­lated dis­crim­i­na­tion by 2020.

• The CAP pro­vides con­crete rec­om­men­da­tions in eight broad ar­eas that in­clude Africa spe­cific tar­gets in the po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions, treat­ment, stop­ping new HIV in­fec­tions, hu­man rights, gen­der and so­cial pro­tec­tion. Oth­ers are: sus­tain­able fi­nanc­ing, strength­en­ing health sys­tems, ac­cess to af­ford­able and qual­ity as­sured medicines, com­modi­ties and tech­nolo­gies and lead­er­ship and ac­count­abil­ity.

The African lead­ers as del­e­gates to the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly 2016 High Level Meet­ing on End­ing AIDS (New York, 8th - 10th June 2016) had shared the above com­mon po­si­tion in the meet­ing with the aim of forg­ing part­ner­ship with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

At the end of the high level meet­ing in New York, a new po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion adopted by the United Na­tions Mem­ber States emerged to chart a course to end AIDS as a pub­lic health threat by 2030. The lead­ers com­mit­ted to im­ple­ment­ing a bold agenda to end the AIDS epi­demic by 2030.

The pro­gres­sive, new and ac­tion­able po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion in­cludes a set of spe­cific, time-bound tar­gets and ac­tions that must be achieved by 2020 if the world is to get on the FastTrack and end the AIDS epi­demic by 2030 within the frame­work of the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals. The meet­ing was con­vened by the Pres­i­dent of the Gen­eral Assem­bly and co-fa­cil­i­tated by Switzer­land and Zam­bia.

At the open­ing, the Pres­i­dent of the Gen­eral Assem­bly, Mo­gens Lykketoft, urged Mem­ber States to com­mit to ac­tion.

“All stake­hold­ers must now step up to the plate. To­day is the day that we col­lec­tively say that we will end the AIDS epi­demic by 2030,” said Mr Lykketoft. “We must pay greater at­ten­tion to equal­ity and in­clu­sion, up­hold hu­man rights and speak out against stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

Dur­ing the open­ing ple­nary, the United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral, Ban Ki-moon, said the AIDS re­sponse had been a “source of in­no­va­tion and in­spi­ra­tion.”

“For the first time in his­tory we can say that in Africa there are more peo­ple ini­ti­at­ing HIV treat­ment than there are new HIV in­fec­tions,” said UNAIDS Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Michel Sidibé. He also un­der­lined the im­por­tance of in­clu­sion, say­ing, “the doors of the United Na­tions should be open to all.”

Beyond the Geneva and New York meet­ings, can African lead­ers de­liver on their com­mon po­si­tion and prom­ises? Can they com­mit and spend do­mes­tic re­sources for HIV/ AIDS?

All com­ments to Dr Aminu Ma­gashi, pub­lisher Health Re­porters (health­weekly@ya­hoo.com)

We must pay greater at­ten­tion to equal­ity and in­clu­sion, up­hold hu­man rights and speak out against stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion

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