The African Union (AU) and the UN system in Africa on Tuesday launched the Acceleration of Prevention of HIV Initiative in the African Region. Aids prevention matters were the top priority at the launch of the Acceleration for the Prevention of HIV programme. The programme aims to curb the spread on the pandemic, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare said at a launching ceremony, held at the AU headquarters, that Africa must now seize the moment to stop the threat of HIV. Konare told the participants, that there are several proven interventions in the area of prevention, and that they have secure and growing knowledge base to do the job, and that there now is unprecedented political commitment and increase in funding to help implement the plans and programs into services for the people. The AU Commission and the UN agencies were in agreement that acceleration of HIV prevention deserved a more serious attention in line with the goal of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care by 2010.
WHO regional director for Africa, Luis Sambo, said the launch should serve as a wake-up call for Africa to take concrete measures to stop all forms of HIV infection.
Sambo said, they must promote widespread awareness of HIV and its cause, through media campaigns and education, as they are the best ways to do it. Africans he felt must now embrace HIV counselling and testing. He also urged the governments to work in together with partners, to ensure wide availability of HIV prevention services, together with anti-retroviral therapy.
A statement issued by WHO Africa Region (WHO/AFRO) said, the launch is a follow-up to the decision by African ministers of health in 2005 to declare 2006 as a 'Year for Acceleration of HIV Prevention'. Since the pandemic broke in the 1980s, 50 million people have been infected in Africa, with 22 million deaths, while infant mortality, which had fallen by 50 percent between 1960 and 1990, has risen again. Africa currently has some 12 million AIDS orphans, and this could rise to 19 million by 2010.
According to UNAIDS, HIV and AIDS pose the greatest threat to security and development in Africa. Life expectancy in some countries in the region has dropped almost to 32 years. The gross domestic product (GDP) of one country has dropped to 1%, while agricultural production in another is projected to drop to 24% by 2010.