It has been revealed at the ongoing ICASA that ending AIDS will not be possible if Africa does not assume a leadership role in the response. This is because Africa is home to over 66% of the world’s population of persons living with HIV (PLHIV) and accounts for over 58% and 68% of global new infections and AIDS-related deaths respectively against the background that Africa constitutes just about 15% of the world’s population. It was submitted that even though HIV is driven by many factors, at its core is inequality. Women are the most affected and it is even worse for adolescent girls and young women as their vulnerability is exacerbated by sexual and gender-based violence.
There was a call to step up prevention effort as the continual increase in HIV population will make treatment unsustainable. It was deemed lamentable that most African countries depend largely on donor funds to drive their response. Besides, there was a clear warning that high HIV prevalence among the youth could prevent the continent from reaping the associated demographic dividends.
Preventing new HIV infections as noted, is everyone’s business and requires multi-sectoral response including action by the education sector, law reform, ending discrimination, and harmful practices, community systems, and above all, political will. In this respect, the Global Prevention Coalition has agreed upon five intervention areas that make a difference which are combination prevention for adolescent girls and young women and their male partners; combination prevention services for key populations, national condom and related-behaviour change programing, men’s health, and Pre-exposure prophylaxis. It was further suggested that to end new HIV infections, there is the need to end IPVs, increase girl’s access to secondary education, extend sexuality education to out of school settings, remove barriers to service access, create safer environment for people most affected, and sustained political and financial commitment to HIV response. It was averred that there are existing effective HIV prevention tools and these must be put to use.
Another topical issue of the day was the progress on the Abuja Declaration made in 2001 in which members of the AU pledged to commit at least 15% of their national budget each year to improving their respective health care systems. An assessment carried out ten years after the Declaration revealed that only a few countries in Africa had the potential to fulfil the demands thereof. However, it was revealed that the advent of COVID-19 has awakened the need to invest copiously in the health sector as it has exposed the deficiencies from many years of neglect and under-funding. This should inspire action through active pursuit of innovative funding sources in light of declining Regional and global economies.
Another colossal swath covered at the Conference was the management of COVID-19 in Africa, its impact and the way forward. It was revealed that Africa has gone through 3 peaks with each peak being higher than the previous. In respect of the Omicron variant, it was admitted that more data are needed to understand its epidemiological ramifications. Some of the initiatives being undertaken by the AU and its CDC were outlined including the development of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak. Some suggestions were offered for effective Regional response to pandemics including strong political leadership; strengthened laboratory systems and capacity building; vaccine-related innovation and addressing shortage of critical health workforce as well as fostering impactful partnerships.
The Ghana AIDS Commission is a supra-ministerial and multi-sectoral body established under the Chairmanship of H. E. the President of the Republic of Ghana by Act 2016, Act 938 of Parliament. The objective of the Commission is to formulate policy on the HIV and AIDS epidemic and...find out more