Tuesday

Dr Piot speech lauds Kenya, Zimbabwe on Aids

By Henry Neondo

Reduction in prevalence in incidences of HIV/Aids in Kenya was yesterday sited at the 14th international conference on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa, ICASA currently taking place in Abuja, Nigeria as good news for the efforts tha have over years been put in the war against the scourge.

According to Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, the latest UNAIDS/WHO AIDS Epidemic Update announced two weeks before the conference about declining new infections in Kenya and Zimbabwe was testimony of positive influence the first phase of the war on the scourge has had.

In all these countries, he adds, there is strong evidence of changes in behaviour – people have increased their use of condoms, are delaying the first time they have sexual intercourse, and are having fewer sexual partners.

He said that since the last 13th ICASA in 2003 in Nairobi, the money available for the AIDS response in sub-Saharan Africa has nearly tripled and because of this, the response to AIDS is now moving from the era of awareness creation to implementation phase.

Piot said that at the time of the Nairobi conference, only about 75,000 Africans were on antiretroviral therapy. This has however increased to half a million by June 2005.

He added that at the time of the Nairobi Conference, only one country had a well-documented nationwide decline in HIV prevalence – Uganda.

He said that for the first time, the political commitment exists to work towards universal access to HIV prevention and treatment, as expressed at the UN World Summit in September, the African Ministers of Health Summit in Gabarone and the G8.

But he admits that AIDS is still a problem with a solution yet to be tapped and the epidemic continues to far outstrip efforts to halt it.

He said money must be made to work for the people on the ground against the background of efficient management, transparency, accountability and coordination.

He vouched for enhancing capacity for Faith Based Organisations including churches and Musques and grassroots initiatives for people living with HIV/Aids if all the people were to be reached.

According to Piot, there were more people newly infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005 than in any previous year – about 3.2 million adults and children.

Over half of all new infections were among young people with the worst toll on young women.

And more Africans died of AIDS in 2005 than in any year so far – about 2.4 million adults and children.


But getting there, he said, will require change of gear and further acceleration of the response to AIDS.


He asked donors tostop funding grants for AIDS programmes without a strong capacity building component and governments and NGOs were similarly asked to stop accepting them.

He added that building capacity will also require that the role of the public sector be strengthened not undermined by national and international fiscal policies otherwise it is the poor who suffer.

To have the greatest impact on the course of the epidemic, Piot said HIV prevention and HIV treatment programmes have to jointly be scaled-up.

He asked that the pace of developing female-controlled prevention methods, new generations of HIV therapy, and vaccines be boosted.

Despite the greatly increased funding for the AIDS response, the gap is widening. And that’s because the needs are growing as more and more people require life saving treatment.

He says that the best estimates at UNAIDS are that by 2007, nearly $10 billion will be needed for Africa to scale up towards universal access.

He however cautioned that by current indications only half that sum is likely to be available.

He advised that one step will be for all African countries to meet the target set out in the 2001 Abuja Declaration of the African Union to allocate 15 per cent of national resources towards health care.

He appealed to donor governments to guarantee to close any funding shortfalls that remain, not just for a year or two, but over the long term.

He said millions of people’s lives directly depend on the commitment of donor governments to putting in place secure, predictable and adequate funding for Africa’s AIDS response.

However, he said that a nation can’t depend on foreign aid for the survival of their citizens as is the case today.

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