16 July 2013

Africa: President Jonathan Urges Leaders to Find Local Solutions to HIV/Aids

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Stigma remains a major problem

President Goodluck Jonathan Monday appealed to his African colleagues to exploit local means of tackling not only HIV but also tuberculosis, malaria and other related infectious diseases. Jonathan made the appeal in Abuja at the opening of the Abuja+12, Special Summit of the African Union (AU) on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The two-day summit with the theme, "Ownership, Accountability and Sustainability to HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Response in Africa: Past, Present and Future", is being attended by most African leaders.

Also at the occasion, United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, stressed the need for Africa to maintain its momentum in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, saying slowing down of the tempo would reverse the progress already made.

Jonathan, in his speech, urged African leaders to de-emphasise reliance on external funding and importation of essential medicines for the treatment of the diseases.

"We must stand in solidarity with one another, be proactive to our health challenges and increase inter-continental scientific research partnerships and development efforts to complement the various national and regional plans already underway.

"Ownership and sustainability should form the basis of our next plan of actions. Our goal should be to find local solutions to our challenges, translate planning into implementation and develop our continent at the pace we desire," he said.

To realise the laudable goals, Jonathan added that the leaders must show commitments by increased funding and synergy between government and other stakeholders.

Stressing that the HIV/AIDS and the other infectious diseases remain the major causes of morbidity and mortality in Africa, Jonathan said: "For too long, political instability, insecurity and infectious diseases have beclouded our efforts at rapid development and effective optimisation of the abundant potential of our continent.

"However, today there is renewed hope that together and with homegrown initiatives, we can systematically and comprehensively address these tough challenges.

"Our people are anxious for tangible results and concrete action to improve the quality of life. As we look forward to a productive summit, meeting the needs of our people by achieving these goals should be our collective resolve." AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who spoke in a similar tone, said HIV/AIDS and the other infectious diseases had posed challenges to the socio-economic development of Africa.

According to her, the annual rate of infection of HIV/AIDS has fallen by 25 per cent, while death rate has reduced by 32 per cent since the Abuja Declaration of 2011.

She added that from 2001 to date, more than 30 million people have received tuberculosis treatment while malaria infection has reduced by one third. In his contribution, Ki-Moon stressed the need for Africa to maintain its momentum in the fight against the dreaded HIV/AIDS epidemic so as not to reverse the progress already made.

According to him, despite all efforts, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases still pose a significant threat to the wellbeing and development of sub-Saharan Africa.

Represented by Executive Director of UNFPA, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, Ki-Moon said African leaders should show more political commitments to the fight against the diseases.

"Every minute, a child dies of malaria, one in 20 adults lives with HIV, TB infection rates are highest in the world, with more than 260 cases per 100,000 people in 2011, while many Africans endure the double burden of HIV and TB.

"This summit can provide a tipping point in Africa's progress on health. Let us place AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria at the centre of public health policy," he added.

AU Chairman and Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, said the main objective of the summit as reflected in the theme, was to allow participants to review achievements and challenges in managing the diseases.

Citing a report jointly prepared by AU, UNDP and Africa Development Bank, he said: "For instance, about 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have reduced new HIV infections by more than 25 per cent and made considerable reduction in AIDS' mortality. In fact, some African countries, including Ethiopia, have reduced the incidence of HIV/AIDS infection by more than 50 per cent."

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