Addressing more than 20 African high-level officials at a meeting today in Addis Ababa, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé praised AIDS Watch Africa (AWA) as a leader in HIV responses across the African continent. The meeting, hosted by AWA’s action committee, was held on the eve of the 19th African Union (AU) Summit.
"Africa needs AWA now more than ever,” said Mr Sidibé. “We need AWA to cultivate a common voice in Africa—one that embraces AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria and other health challenges. We need AWA to provide oversight of health investments and to leverage those investments for broader development.”
Established by eight Heads of State and Government in 2001, AWA was originally designed as a platform for advocacy and accountability in Africa’s AIDS response. To date, its committee has played an important role in keeping AIDS high on the development agenda and in mobilizing domestic and international resources for HIV and health. In January 2012, AWA’s mandate was expanded to include TB and malaria, and its representation was broadened continent-wide.
Speaking alongside Mr Sidibé, Dr Boni Yayi, Chair of AWA and President of the Republic of Bénin, said that reversing the spread of HIV, TB and malaria in Africa would demand political will, leadership and shared responsibility. “We must redouble our efforts to prevent new infections and deaths linked to these diseases. The time has come to transform policy into action,” said Dr Yayi, who also serves as Chair of the African Union.
A new Roadmap on Shared Responsibility and Global Solidarity provides clear parameters for such action. Developed by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), with support from UNAIDS, the Roadmap offers practical solutions to enhance sustainable responses to AIDS, TB and malaria in Africa.
Structured around three strategic pillars—diversified financing, health governance and access to medicines—the Roadmap was reviewed and endorsed at today’s meeting by AWA committee members. It will be presented for adoption at the upcoming AU Summit.
"Effective fund mobilization and disbursement and access to treatment are critical for our response, which requires political leadership," said Mr Idriss Déby Itno, President of the Republic of Chad. "We must therefore stay committed to ensure that Africa does not suffer any longer."
Partnering with African legislators
Following the breakfast meeting, Mr Sidibé signed, on behalf of UNAIDS, a joint memo of understanding (MoU) with the Pan African Parliament calling for strategic partnership to advance sustainable responses to HIV. The MoU provides a platform for the two parties to join forces and advance a shared goal of “getting to zero.”
“As people’s representatives, legislators have a duty to remove obstacles that hamper universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. By partnering with legislators, we can close inequity gaps and get to zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths,” said the UNAIDS Executive Director.
Through this partnership, UNAIDS will work with legislators from across Africa, empowering them with up-to-date knowledge and information on HIV. Legislators, in turn, will become high-level advocates for the HIV response; they will work to ensure accountability, push through non-discrimination laws and encourage governments to commit the necessary resources. Preventing new HIV infections among children will be a key area of focus for the two agencies.
“PAP can be a great ally in supporting accountability, appropriate resource allocation, challenging stigma and discrimination, and realizing access to affordable and high quality HIV medicines on the continent,” said Hon Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi, the President of Pan African Parliament, following the MoU signing with Mr Sidibé.
Later in the day, the UNAIDS Executive Director addressed the 27th Summit of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee. He presented the new Roadmap and congratulated the AUC and NEPAD for taking the lead in developing it. “Through this Roadmap, African leaders are charting a new course towards shared responsibility and global solidarity,” said the UNAIDS Executive Director.
During the meeting, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD, presented a progress report on the work of NEPAD. Emphasizing NEPAD's critical partnership with UNAIDS, he said the two agencies would continue to collaborate closely on the planning and implementation of AIDS responses across the continent.