A grouping of former Africa Heads of State says the current pace of Africa’s response to HIV is “too slow” to keep the fast-expanding young population healthy and productive. They have called for rapid expansion and acceleration of the AIDS response.
The grouping, ‘Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation’ comprises Joyce Banda the former President of Malawi, Festus Mogae former President of Botswana and Chairperson, , JoaquimChissano, former President of Mozambique, Kenneth Kaunda, former President of Zambia, Alpha OumarKonaré, former President of Mali, Benjamin William Mkapa, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, KgalemaMotlanthe, former President of South Africa, SpeciosaWandira-Kazibwe, former Vice-President of Uganda, Miriam Were, former Chairperson of the Kenya National AIDS Control Council, OlusegunObasanjo, former President of Nigeria, Hifikepunye Pohamba, former President of Namibia, Edwin Cameron, Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
The leaders signed a Declaration following their meeting in Johannesburg last week, emphasizing that more than ever, much focus should now be directed towards HIV prevention.
“Africa must break down the barriers and obstacles that stop our young people from accessing education, including quality sexual health education, and health services that meet the specific needs of adolescents and young adults.
“Girls and women are more vulnerable to HIV because they are more vulnerable generally—biologically, socially and economically. They are also more vulnerable to sexual violence and early marriage,” reads the Declaration made available to Nyasa Times.
The leaders say “the new narrative must speak to young people, especially to adolescent girls and young women”.
“It must also speak up for the imperative of ending early marriage and intergenerational sex. All of us have a role and have a responsibility to end this epidemic,” the Declaration reads.
According to the Declaration, in the past five years new HIV infections in Africa have fallen by 22%. For children, there has been an “even more dramatic drop in new HIV infections of 42% since 2009”.
“More than 9 million Africans are now accessing life-saving HIV treatment. Medicines that were out of reach 10 years ago are now more widely available across the continent as prices fall and access is expanded.
In her remarks, Malawi former president Banda said: “I am honoured to attend this very important meeting. I am going to work and work until the job of ending the AIDS epidemic is done. I don’t know about you but I’m ready.”