Feature story

Country driven goals towards universal access need to remain a priority

10 March 2010

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(L to R): Minister of State for International Development Gareth Thomas, artist, political and social activist Annie Lennox, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé and Executive Director of the Global Fund Professor Michel Kazatchkine
Credit: UNAIDS

AIDS is not over in any part of the world and as such country driven goals towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support need to remain a priority. This was a recurrent message told by more than 40 champions and leaders of the AIDS response who gathered for a meeting at the House of Lords organized by United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

In 2006, world leaders adopted a declaration at the United Nations General Assembly committing to achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. DFID was central in helping to build momentum at the G8 and other international fora. Civil society’s role was crucial in shaping this commitment and holding leaders accountable.

We can be proud of what we have achieved. We have given hope and restored dignity to the millions of people living with HIV across the world.

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS

Since then, many countries have met some of the goals. More than four million people living with HIV are accessing treatment. There has been a significant drop in new HIV infections since 2001. In sub-Saharan Africa, there were 400,000 less new infections in 2008. Millions of pregnant women tested and counselled for HIV. Thousands of HIV positive pregnant mothers being provided the necessary treatment and support to stop passing HIV to their babies. More than 5 million orphans are receiving social support. Funding for HIV programmes have increased—from development partners and domestic sources reaching US$ 16 billion in 2008.

“We can be proud of what we have achieved,” said Mr Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “We have given hope and restored dignity to the millions of people living with HIV across the world.”

Ambassador Eric Goosby, the United States Global AIDS Coordinator, added that the achievements made by countries put them in a better position to say that the resources available are not enough.

From the civil society perspective, Professor Narciso Matos the Director of the Foundation for Community Development in Mozambique said that much of the success has been the number of stakeholders involved “especially the role of religious groups”.

However many countries have yet to reach all their targets. His Royal Highness Chief Mumena of Zambia gave the example of voluntary counselling and testing. He talked about the fact that most people in his country live many miles away from health centres and that the cost of bus fare made visits prohibitively expensive.

Many talked about the resources that the world will need to continue to tackle AIDS. Public opinion about bailout packages given to the private sector has brought new perspectives on funding for development and health issues including ideas around a transactional tax. The AIDS response has been at the forefront of innovation in health financing including UNITAID and MASSIVEGOOD. Initiatives like PEPFAR have changed the way the world works on AIDS.

In summarizing the main points of the meeting, MP Gareth Thomas, Minister of State for International Development, pointed out the importance of the Global Fund Replenishment and the World Bank Replenishment as well as country ownership to continue towards universal access goals.

Ms Vuyiseka Dubula, the General Secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign from South Africa reminded participants the importance of taking care of their own citizens but also to “treat other people beyond their borders”.

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