Heads of State and Government from countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met on 18 August to discuss the progress made and the challenges that the region is facing regarding HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
Given the financial down-turn for the AIDS response, SADC leaders underlined the need to explore ways to increase domestic resources and expressed their support for the replenishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. They also agreed to push for global solidarity and shared responsibility for HIV, TB and malaria responses in Africa in line with the African Union roadmap adopted in July 2012.
SADC Member States underlined the need for regional production and procurement of essential medicines and commodities for AIDS, TB and malaria. They stressed that with increasing demand for HIV treatment, the SADC region should step up its efforts to ensure favourable polices, encourage technology transfer and build capacity of African countries to produce high quality drugs and other pharmaceutical goods.
Despite progress made in the AIDS response in recent years—coverage of antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV has increased considerably in several countries—SADC remains the region most affected by HIV, with millions of people still lacking access to life saving treatment and care services.
Discussing the need to scale up access to HIV testing and treatment, structural, financial, human resources and human rights challenges were identified by the SADC leaders as the main obstacles to attain the goal of universal access. HIV testing and counselling is a critical and essential gateway to HIV services. WHO and UNAIDS, having endorsed the concept of universal access to knowledge of HIV status, recommend that HIV testing be conducted on a voluntary basis, consistent with WHO/UNAIDS guidelines. In this context, SADC leaders welcomed WHO’s new treatment guidelines which provides for earlier initiation of HIV treatment.
The meeting took place on the margins of the 33rd SADC Summit held from 17–18 August in Lilongwe, Malawi. It was attended by many Heads of States, including Presidents of Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, United Republic of Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe.