‘Africa needs fresh impetus to defeat HIV/AIDS’

Michel_sidibe1Confab on epidemics opens in Addis Ababa

AFRICAN leaders have been challenged to promote a knowledge-based economy with shared values and a shared responsibility in the response to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Executive Director, UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, who stated this on Sunday at the opening ceremony of the 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in Africa (ICASA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, also called for renewed commitment in response to the HIV and AIDS epidemics.

Sidibe said: “We are here to demonstrate that global solidarity can produce results. This is a day to particularly remember the 24 million Africans we lost to the epidemic. It is also a time to celebrate our successes. Many said our prevention programmes would never work. Today, we have been able to prove them wrong”

Former President of the United States (U.S), George W. Bush received an award for his support and commitment to the Global AIDS response at the event.

Bush and his wife, Laura, had earlier opened a Community Village for the treatment of AIDS.

Sidibe noted that although there has been unprecedented success in the prevention and control of HIV and AIDS, the unfolding events in the decline of global funding is posing a threat in combating the epidemic.

“Countries must not relent in their efforts. We are at a break or make point and if we don’t pay now, we will  pay forever,” he said.

Bush stressed that no society could grow it denied its people of their needs, adding that a lot more needed to be done in responding to HIV/AIDS despite the current economic downturn.

His words: “We cannot afford to falter or retreat when we are needed most. Despite the lean budget times being experienced, there is no greater priority than saving human lives and this can be achieved by supporting and expanding programmes that show proven results.”

In his opening remarks, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, noted that the successes registered in the response against HIV/AIDS in Africa was in part as a result of unprecedented support from global partners.

He also stressed the need to urgently devise means of fighting HIV/AIDS in the future through collective response.

This year’s ICASA focuses on Africa and its need to “Own, Scale Up and Sustain” the HIV epidemic.

Holding between December 4 and 8, the conference brings together high level officials, including current and former African presidents, First Ladies, policy makers, scientists, clinicians, People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), community leaders, representatives of private sector, civil society and media from Africa and other continents.

They would share best practices, challenges and dialogue on the way forward in addressing the HIV/AIDS response on a continent that continues to bear the heaviest burden of the epidemic.

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