Friday, March 19, 2010

Financing, Commitment, Enabling Environment Pillars In Fight Against HIV/AIDS

NEWS BANJUL, THE GAMBIA9MB)-The UNAIDS Country Officer, Nuha Ceesay, has revealed that the pillars for the fight against HIV and AIDS are sustainable financing, high-level commitment and creating the enabling environment to fight against HIV-related stigma and discrimination, saying they are important.
Mr. Ceesay made these remarks at the opening of a two-day workshop for National Assembly members at Jerma Beach Hotel from 12 to 13 February 2010.
The National AIDS Secretariat (NAS) in collaboration and partnership with the UNDP organised the workshop for advocacy and capacity building of the public sectors and AIDS support society organisations.
The objective, among others, is to advocate and build the capacity of the National Assembly members (NAMS) on mainstreaming the HIV and AIDS process into development plans and management, and the PRSP.
According to Mr. Ceesay, the UNAIDS office is hoping the lawmakers support the national initiatives to ensure the mainstreaming of HIV in national development instruments such as the PRSP.
“To enhance our achievement of universal access, we should ensure empowered national leadership at country level that promotes and specifies goals pertaining to principles”.
He told the NAMS that it was deemed necessary to develop ad implement gender-sensitive HIV and AIDS programmes to protect women and children, noting that “we should join people living with HIV and fight against stigma and discrimination”.
In addition, “we should join hands and advocate for the removal of punitive laws that marginalise the most-at-risk population.
“We should continue to build human capital to ensure the delivery of quality services; we should strengthen the health delivery system to scale up services and to work tirelessly to ensure predictable and sustainable financing”.
The UNAIDS official further noted that “we should above all be accountable by setting feasible national targets that would accelerate meeting universal access.
“We should take a hard look at our delivery mechanisms and ask ourselves this fundamental question: “Are we making any impact?”
In addition, “we should accelerate prevention, as well as scale up access to quality and affordable treatment,” he declared.
“We should ensure the creation of a conducive environment for meaningful civil society participation”, adding, “I know we can if we come together and fight on until the end”.
It is true that there are more people living with HIV than ever before. It is also true that AIDS-related deaths have declined, because more people are living longer due to the effects of anti-retroviral treatment, Mr. Ceesay continued.
He explained that AIDS-related deaths have declined by over 10 percent in the past five years. The figures also revealed that an estimated number of 2.9 million lives have been saved since the availability of effective anti-retroviral treatment since 1996.
However, it is apparent that without urgent and long term action, the epidemic will continue to take an unacceptable toll in death and suffering in countries, and communities throughout the world will continue to suffer.
The international community, he said, under the leadership and guidance of the UN has recognised the challenges posed by HIV and AIDS and has led efforts towards providing strategies and resources that are required for effective response to the pandemic globally.
It was against this background that at the high level meeting on AIDS held in New York on June 2, 2006, a new global objective-moving towards the goal of universal access to HIV prevention programmes, treatment care and support by 2010 – was declared, he told the NAMS.
About universal access, Mr. Ceesay said there were key landmarks that set the stage for efforts in scaling up towards universal access.
These landmark events were the UNGASS Declaration of Commitment in 2001, the MDG Summit in 2000, the Abuja Declaration and the WHO Three by Five Initiative, to name just a few.
The UNAIDS official added that commitment to universal access is relevant towards meeting the 2015 MDGS, especially the targets under Goal 6, although other goals that deal with poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality and maternal mortality are all part of the crusade.
Regarding accelerating and expanding existing programmes by promoting universal access, Mr. Ceesay outlined increased efficiency and quality of aid for HIV and AIDS through the actions of development partners to maximise coordination, complementarity and harmonisation in aid delivery and sustained increased in aid for HIV and AIDS.
Policy dialogue to address sensitive issues and the identification of specific issues requiring stronger global and national commitment are also essential, he said, adding that identification of structural obstacles and potential solutions are part of the goals set.
He also mentioned contribution towards longer terms predictable resource flows, addressing macro-economic constraints, and reducing transaction costs, and providing adequate and sustainable domestic funding for HIV/AIDS.
“AIDS is one of the greatest leadership challenges of our time. We are also faced with major challenges in meeting our universal access target”.
Overall the AIDS epidemic continues to pose serious challenges in the region with increasing trends and their diverse inter and intra country prevalence ranging from 1% to 13% respectively and the existence of duo HIV1 and 2 epidemics, Mr. Ceesay noted.
He went on to say that there are also systemic issues citing inadequate human capacity and institutional structures, weak health systems and the sheer lack of coordination and harmonisation of efforts.
The challenges, the UNAIDS official noted, “are very huge now more than ever before, because of the global financial, fuel and food crises”.
According to him, there are also other competing priorities such as climate change resulting in natural disasters which resulted in stretching the limited financial resources and development assistance.

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