UNAIDS - 24 February 2012
Meeting today with John Evans Atta Mills, President of the
Republic of Ghana, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe
sounded a theme from his recent missions in Benin and Togo:
sustainability of the AIDS response in Africa.
Noting that a vast majority of antiretroviral medicines consumed
in Africa are imported from overseas, Mr Sidibe underscored the
urgent need for home-grown solutions to ensure the long-term
availability of these drugs at affordable prices.
"African countries must catalyse the local production of
high-quality medicines," said Mr Sidibe, while meeting with
President Mills at his offices in Accra. "Ghana can develop
centres of excellence and lead the way in an effective
continental response to HIV," he added.
President Mills said he looked forward to the day when Ghana was
able to manufacture HIV medicines for its population at large and
neighboring countries in the region. "This will a major boost for
us," he said.
Preventing HIV among children
During the meeting, the UNAIDS Executive Director expressed
concern over the low coverage (51%) of services in Ghana to
prevent HIV transmission from mother to child (PMTCT). He said
that it is ethically unacceptable for any child to be born with
HIV and emphasized the economic rationale for expanding PMTCT
services: preventing HIV is far less costly than life-long
Mr Sidibe urged the President to champion the UNAIDS vision of
"Zero new HIV infections among children" across the country. "No
baby born with HIV by the year 2015--this can be your legacy for
Ghana," he said, adding that keeping their mothers alive is
Addressing stigma and discrimination
During his meeting with President Mills, the UNAIDS Executive
Director noted with concern that stigma and discrimination
continue to block an effective response to HIV in
Ghana--especially for people living with HIV and key populations
at higher risk of infection, such as sex workers, men who have
sex with men, and people who use drugs.
The President said that he was hopeful a new nation-wide campaign
called "Heart to Heart" would help reduce the widespread stigma
and discrimination in his country. Launched on World AIDS Day
2011, the campaign aims to re-engineer deep-rooted beliefs and
behaviors towards people living with HIV by giving a "human face"
to the epidemic.
Roundtable discussion with partners
At a roundtable discussion earlier in the day with high-level
representatives from government, civil society and the private
sector, Mr Sidibe said that he was encouraged by the more than
25% reduction in new HIV infections among young Ghanaians between
2001 and 2010.
He commended the leadership of Ghana for the dramatic increase in
national spending on AIDS, from a less than US$ 1 million
contribution last year to a US $100 million pledge over the next
five-year period. The UNAIDS Executive Director noted, however,
that--even with the recent pledge--Ghana continues to rely on
external aid to finance more than 70% of its national AIDS
As part of his three-day official visit to Ghana, Mr Sidibe
participated in a series of events marking the 10th anniversary
of the Ghana AIDS Commission. Additionally, he toured a hospital
that provides comprehensive PMTCT services and visited a local
production plant that manufactures antiretroviral medicines.
Mr Sidibe's official visit in Accra was part of a four-country
mission to Ghana, Benin, Togo and C�te d'Ivoire.
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
UNAIDS Executive Director meets with Benin's Head of State (22
February 2012) - http://www.aegis.org/news/unaids/2012/UN120112.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
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