Meeting on 15 October with the Prime Minister of Senegal, Mr Abdoul Mbaye, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé commended the leadership of Senegal for its success in keeping national HIV prevalence low, at approximately 0.7%.
“Senegal is a model for this sub-region,” said Mr Sidibé. “It has shown that stabilizing the HIV epidemic and reducing the number of new HIV infections is possible. The priority now is to sustain the gains made so far,” he said.
Progress and challenges
In recent years, Senegal has considerably expanded access to antiretroviral therapy (ART), reaching 74% of people eligible in 2011. Between 2006 and 2011, the number of sites offering HIV counselling and testing increased from approximately 100 to more than 1000. In his meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr Sidibé encouraged Senegal’s leaders to move progressively towards routine HIV testing through the use of new technologies.
In 2011, 976 health facilities in Senegal offered services that prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV - up from 648 in 2010. Despite progress, national PMTCT coverage remains low, at about 40%. Mr Sidibé commended the progress realized to date while underscoring that extra effort is needed to ensure an HIV-free generation.
Prime Minister Mbaye said that his country was committed to eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015. “This will allow us to make the link to HIV testing and reduce maternal mortality,” he added.
Funding the national HIV response
The Prime Minister noted that though Senegal had recently received an HIV grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, the country would need to seek innovative sources of domestic financing to ensure that its HIV-positive population had access to ART over the long term. In doing so, Senegal could reduce its dependency on external aid for the national HIV response, which currently stands at about 80%, he said.
Mr Sidibé spoke of the need for the local production of antiretroviral therapy - a suggestion well received by the Prime Minister: “It is a very good idea that we will help carry forward. But to achieve a threshold of profitability, we must find sponsors and attract investors. The state is not the solution!” he said.
During his two-day mission in Dakar, the Executive Director attended a UNAIDS regional management meeting and met with the President of the National Assembly of Senegal, Mr Moustapha Niasse.