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Zimbabwe, 1 December 2015: Worlds AIDS Day: Call to continue bold steps towards AIDS free generation

By Elizabeth B. Mupfumira

© UNICEF 2015
Over the past 15 years, HIV services in prevention, treatment, care and support have resulted in an estimated 30 million infections being averted, with up to 15 million people living with HIV receiving antiretroviral treatment.

Africa joined the rest of the world in commemorating World AIDS Day, with a call for the continent to look for forward-thinking, innovative and bold solutions to address the unfinished and remaining issues on AIDS in order to realise an AIDS-free generation.

Speaking at the 18th International Conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa (ICASA), in Harare, Zimbabwe, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa (ESARO) Regional Director, Ms Leila Pakkala made a special plea to Government leaders, partners and civil society to continue on the path to an AIDS-free generation by taking a moment to reflect and take stock of the tremendous strides made in the last 15 years, and agree on the steps needed in order to eliminate the disease by 2030.

“This ICASA platform provides an opportunity to take stock of the progress and challenges we collectively face, present emerging evidence and related implications, marshal resources and advocate for continued strong frontline leadership,” she said.

Over the past 15 years, HIV services in prevention, treatment, care and support have resulted in an estimated 30 million infections being averted, with up to 15 million people living with HIV receiving antiretroviral treatment.

“As we close the chapter on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and acknowledge the strides made over the past 15 years, I can confidently say that progress in the response to HIV is one of the great success stories of the MDGs,” Pakkala said.

Through the recently released Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS UNICEF has identified three issues that, if tackled, can change the AIDS trajectory in the region- i)currently 25 children are infected with HIV every hour, most of them in Africa, yet access to treatment is still limited; ii) currently HIV is the leading cause of death among adolescents, with AIDS-related deaths having tripled since 2000; and iii) 3 out of 5 vertical infections between mother and child happens through breastfeeding, underpinning the urgent need to keep mothers on treatment after delivery as this is critical in ensuring that breastfeeding is safe from the risk of HIV.

“We are all intimately aware of the correlation between AIDS, productivity and poverty. We know the impact of AIDS on education, its social protection implications and it’s repercussions in maternal and child health,” said Pakkala.

Highlighting the great strides made in areas such as Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission where the transmission rate has now fallen, development leaders have called upon Africa to remain bold in its fight against the disease.

“Years and experience have shown that in regards to combating HIV/AIDS ambition pays off, if someone said years ago that 15 million people, 11 million of whom are in Africa, will be on successful treatment, no one would have believed him, but now it is fact, with 7.8 million lives saved globally, and 30 million infections evaded,” said Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS Executive Director.

As the world looks towards the Sustainable Development Goals, Vice President of Zimbabwe, Honourable Emmerson Mnangagwa said the theme of the Conference, “AIDS in Post-2015 era: linking Leadership, Science and Human Rights,” was appropriate in ensuring that Africa wins the war against HIV and AIDS.

“Clearly science, leadership, and human rights taken separately and exclusively cannot win the war against HIV and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections),” he said. “Hence there must be harmony and synergy in the fight against this epidemic which has ravaged our great continent.”

The six-day conference has brought together more than 5 000 delegates from around the world including the world's leading scientists, policy makers, activists, people living with HIV and government leaders with a collective aim to progress the continent’s fight against HIV and AIDS.

 

 
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