Africa needs to be innovative in its battle against HIV and AIDS – UN official


Windhoek- The UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sibide has praised Namibia for commendable progress made in achieving targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), while calling on the African continent to come up with innovative ways of how to maintain successes and progress made towards achieving the goals.

Sidibe described Namibia as a successful story, saying the country has made tangible progress in achieving targets sets out in MDGs 4, 5 and 6 that call for reduction in child mortality, maternal  mortality  and combating of HIV, Malaria  and other diseases.

Although a lot has been achieved there is a need to consider lessons from the past that challenge the future of HIV interventions, while trying to use tools that are responding to today’s world he said.

“We need to see health as an investment and not expenditure because health is a value in itself and a precondition for economic prosperity as people’s health influences economic outcomes in terms of productivity, labour supply, human capital and public spending,” he said

Sibide maintained that in order to stay ahead in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Africa needs to learn from the battle against the disease for the past 30 years and come up with innovative ideas such as ways of sourcing funds and investing in a knowledge based economy to make the continent self-reliant.

He noted that global achievements have helped transform the disease from an acute, fatal illness to a manageable chronic condition, which Sidibe noted “needs to be maintained to attain the global vision of getting to zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS-related deaths”.

There is window of opportunity for Africa to become a knowledge based economy, which is able to produce its own clinical and biopharmaceutical researchers, scientists and start manufacturing its own medicines and vaccines for HIV/AIDS instead of relying on the Western countries, he said.

Sidibe was speaking at a public lecture on November 3, 2014 that was hosted by the Polytechnic of Namibia in conjunction with the Ministry of Health Social Services under the theme “Ending HIV and AIDS, TB and Malaria within the post 2015 Agenda: increase access to medicine.”

Meeting First Lady

Meanwhile, Sidibe has praised Namibian First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba saying she had helped his organisation to not only move the agenda of the African First Ladies, but to also make them understand that they should not just stick to HIV/AIDS issues.

During a courtesy call on the First Lady at State House, Sidibe indicated that she played a key role in helping African First Ladies see the link between HIV and maternal health, child health; tuberculosis related diseases as well as reproductive health.

“We are here to say we are proud of you because the results we have seen here in Namibia make us all happy,” he said.

On her part, the Namibian First Lady said she was thankful for the financial and technical support she received from UNAIDS throughout her tenure of office. “It is assistance from donors like you which provided me and my team with the support needed to implement activities, and continue with my mission,” she said.

She noted that financial contributions from UNAIDS over the years demonstrated the programme’s commitment to the work of the office of the First Lady, which is interlinked with the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA); maternal and child health; and the Organisation of the Empowerment of Widows/Widowers and Orphans of HIV/AIDS in Namibia (OEWONA).

“All these achievements would not have been possible if it was not for UNAIDS’ financial and technical support,” she said.

Pohamba also informed the UNAIDS official that their support played a key role in the successful hosting of the ‘Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa Conference’ in Windhoek in July this year.

She further informed the delegation that recent reports have showed that Namibia has reduced HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths by 50 per cent.

But despite these achievements, Pohamba stressed that the fight against the pandemic is far from over, that it need to be given priority in the post-2015 agenda.

The post-2015 Development Agenda is a global effort led by the UN to help define the future global development framework, which will succeed the Millennium Development Goals that will come to an end in 2015.

The delegation also had lengthy discussions with representatives of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, and also paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Hage Geingob. Sidibe and his team were in the country to discuss ways how UNAIDS can continue supporting Namibia to build on its success story of universal access to anti-retroviral medication. – Additional reporting by Nampa

November 2014
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