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UNAIDS
UNAIDS Executive Director meets with Benin's Head of State

February 22, 2012
UNAIDS - 22 February 2012

In an official meeting with President Boni Yayi of Benin on 20 February, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe called on the country's Head of State to use his position and influence as President of the African Union to accelerate the HIV response across the continent.

"We are counting on you to help us push forward the HIV response in Africa," said Mr Sidibe, in a meeting with President Yayi in Cotonou. "With your leadership, I know that Africa can achieve the targets in the 2011 Political Declaration on AIDS." Mr Sidibe urged President Yayi to encourage his peers to allocate a greater share of domestic resources to the AIDS response. The UNAIDS Executive Director and the President agreed on the need for a high-level debate on how to finance Africa's AIDS response over the long term.

National progress During the meeting, the UNAIDS Executive Director congratulated President Yayi and his government on achievements in the national response to HIV.

According to government figures, HIV prevalence in Benin has stabilized over the past decade at approximately 2%. An estimated 62 000 people are currently living with HIV across the country and there are some 3300 new HIV infections each year.

At the end of 2010, an estimated 19 000 people were accessing free antiretroviral treatment, up from about 15 000 the previous year. Access to voluntary testing and counselling (VCT) is also expanding at a rapid rate: 126 sites across the country now offer VCT services, up from just 28 sites in 2006.

Mr Sidibe underscored the importance of using scare resources with greater efficiency, transparency and accountability. He emphasized the need to prioritize HIV resources for key affected populations--particularly women and girls, young people, sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs.

Eliminating new infections among children Despite progress, only half (49%) of pregnant women in Benin have access to services that can prevent new HIV infections in their children. An estimated 350 000 children were newly infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2010.

"As President of the African Union, I would like to launch a vibrant appeal to other African Heads of State, urging them to continue investing in programmes that can eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV," said President Yayi. Following his meeting with Mr Sidibe, the President launched a national plan to eliminate new infections among children by 2015, at the Palais des Congr�s in Cotonou.

During the mission, the UNAIDS Executive Director was honoured by Lord Chancellor Osseni Koubourath as a "Grand Officer" of the National Order of Benin for his global leadership and engagement in the HIV response, and for his strong commitment to promoting human rights and dignity.

Mr Sidibe's visit to Benin was the first of a four-country mission in West Africa. He is scheduled to meet this week with high-level representatives from government and civil society in Togo, Ghana and C�te d'Ivoire.

Region/country Benin - http://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/benin/ Related feature stories UNAIDS Executive Director calls for increased national spending on AIDS in Togo (23 February 2012) - http://www.aegis.org/news/unaids/2012/UN120113.html Stopping new HIV infections among children a key priority for new OAFLA chair (31 January 2012) - http://www.aegis.org/news/unaids/2012/UN120112.html Improving women and children's health a priority in Davos (26 January 2012) - http://www.aegis.org/news/unaids/2012/UN120107.html AIDS dependency crisis: sourcing African solutions - http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/publications/unaidspublications/2012/name,67597,en.asp

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