The First Lady, Madam Gertrude Mutharika has called on her fellow First Ladies work in Africa to work together in fighting HIV.
Madam Mutharika, who is vice chairperson of the organization of African First Ladies against AIDS (OAFLA), said on geographical boundaries should not divide them in fighting HIV.
“We should remain united in our common role as First Ladies,” she said.
She was speaking Saturday in Johannesburg, South Africa, when she addressed Africa’s First Ladies at an Africa-China HIV event held on the sidelines of the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit.
FOCAC was established in 2000 to promote bilateral ties and cooperation between China and Africa through dialogue.
The two-day FOCAC gathering, the second since the Beijing summit in 2006 and the first to be held in Africa, brought together more than 30 African countries that have diplomatic relations with China.
Also present at the event were the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan, UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe, and China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan.
Madam Mutharika, who was speaking on behalf of the First Ladies of southern Africa, said working together, they could change the course of history and end AIDS.
She said: “We meet today at an important juncture in the HIV and AIDS response. At the UN General Assembly in September, Heads of State unanimously committed to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
“We must build on the remarkable achievements made in the MDG [Millennium Development Goal] era and fast track to achieve 90.90.90 by 2020 and end AIDS as part of the sustainable development goals by 2030.”
The Malawi First Lady said advances in science had generated optimism, adding that there was enough evidence and the tools needed to permanently change the course of the epidemic.
She said achieving Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS)’s fast track strategy and the goal of ending AIDS by 2030 might appear ambitious “but I know that it is attainable.”
Mutharika said it was attainable because Malawi had demonstrated that what was once thought was impossible could be achieved.
“Since pioneering implementation of its ‘Option B+programme’ in 2011, there was a rapid 700 per cent increase in coverage of antiretroviral therapy [ART] for HIV positive pregnant and breast-feeding women,” she said.
Malawi, which was once badly affected by HIV and AIDS, has made significant gains in its fight against the pandemic, looking at the reduction of AIDS-related deaths in recent years.
The reduction is largely due to the free life prolonging HIV drugs the government is proving to more than half a million people who are living with HIV and AIDS, including pregnant mothers.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in the early 1980s, nearly 78 million people have contracted HIV worldwide and nearly 39 million have died of AIDS-related causes, according to UNAIDS.
And as of March 2015, around 15 million people living with HIV and AIDS (41 per cent of the total) had access to ART.
“Today, eight in 10 women [in Malawi] are receiving antiretroviral therapy, and 12, 000 new infections have been averted among babies,” Madam Mutharika said.
However, she said there were gaps that had to be closed and in more targeted and focused ways.
“It is time to address early teenage pregnancies and high rates of HIV infections in this group. Working together, we can reverse these negative trends among our girls,” Mutharika said.
In his remarks, Sidibe thanked The First Lady of China for what he said was her commitment to help in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Sidibe said he had known Madam Peng for a long time and that she began reaching out to children to ensure they had access to health care long before she became First Lady.
On her part, Chan said First Ladies had a very important role to play in the battle against HIV, and that with their support “it was a very achievable goal.”
“Keep up your excellent work,” she said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :