First Lady Jeannette Kagame has emphasised the fact that despite the significant improvement in fighting against HIV/AIDS in the last 20 years, deeper analysis is still needed "to make more meaningful interventions."
She was addressing the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) high-level session themed "Leadership of African First Ladies in the fight against HIV and AIDS", which took place on the sidelines of 20th International Conference on AIDs and STIs in Africa (ICASA) that started in Kigali yesterday.
The week-long conference has brought together about 10,000 delegates from across Africa.
Alongside other high-level participants, the session was attended by First Ladies Mrs Antoinette Sassou N'guesso of Congo Brazzaville, Mrs Hinda Deby Itno of Chad, Mrs Aïssata Issoufou Mahamadou of Niger, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo of Ghana, and Mrs Neo Jane Masisi of Botswana.
Mrs Kagame highlighted the achievements and efforts by OAFLAD in fighting against HIV/AIDS in Africa and challenged members of the body and partners to engage more discussions on the unravelling challenges.
"It [ICASA] should be an opportunity for us, to have genuine and open conversations, about the diverse challenges, including those resulting from gender inequality," she said.
She added that it is timely to acknowledge what has worked and reveal what has not so as to effectively intervene.
Visible efforts made
Apart from the need to enhance efforts and discussions to address HIV/AIDS prevalence in Africa, Mrs. Kagame applauded improvement made during the 17 years of OAFLAD existence.
She highlighted initiatives such as OAFLAD's 'Free to Shine' Campaign, which she said have brought meaningful change in each of the partner countries.
Mrs Kagame also referred to Rwanda's progress where, new HIV infections had decreased by 83 percent in 2018 and AIDS-related deaths had dropped by 82% in the last 20 years.
She remarked that through projects such as Family Package and Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health - her organisation, Imbuto Foundation, had organization has contributed to national, and the continental fight against HIV/AIDs and STIs and offered a comprehensive package of services to families affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as teenage mothers in Africa.
"At my Foundation, Imbuto, we have also focused on designing and implementing projects, which align with national and international priorities set at a macro level," she said.
Also among participants of the high-level meeting were Winnie Byanyima, a recently appointed Executive Director of UNAIDS.
In her remarks, Byanyima congratulated OAFLAD for its uplifting achievements since its establishment.
"First Ladies have and continue to play a great role of advocates and agents for transformative change, driving political will and need for social justice. Today we must celebrate their efforts," she said.
OAFLAD was established in 2002 with the aim to contribute to the health and well-being of children, youth and women through advocacy, resource mobilization and strategic partnerships. It brings together 33 African first ladies.
According to UNAIDS, Africa is the most affected region globally with more HIV prevalence in young women. In over 25 million HIV positive people in 2017, nearly a million were adolescent girls.