"We can achieve an AIDS-Free Generation" - Dr Sambo

Brazzaville, 30 August 2012 -- The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, says the progress made in containing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the last 30 years shows that “an AIDS-free generation in the future is possible.”

Speaking at the recently concluded 33rd edition of the “Meeting for Friendship Amongst Peoples” held in Ramini, Italy,  Dr Sambo said: “With coordinated efforts to expand HIV prevention and treatment interventions, integrating HIV/AIDS into broader health services, in-creasing funding and improving human rights across vulnerable populations including reducing stigma and discrimination, we will begin to move towards an AIDS free generation.”

 “The goal is ambitious, but achievable”, said the Regional Director who spoke on the theme  HIV, the Forgotten Epidemic.

Dr Sambo stated although sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 22.5 million people living with HIV in 2011 still carried the highest burden of the disease,   new infections had been reduced and the impact of the epidemic minimized due to expanded coverage and improved HIV prevention services.  He illustrated the progress made  in this regard with data which show that  the number of children  infected with HIV dropped from 500,000 in 2003 to 300,000 in 2011.

Similarly, more people than ever before were receiving antiretroviral therapy,  he said, adding that in 2011, more than six million people were receiving treatment in sub-Saharan Africa, compared with just 100,000 in 2003.  Consequently, fewer people are dying of AIDS related causes: in 2011, an estimated 500,000 fewer people died from AIDS related causes in sub-Saharan Africa than in 2006  - - a 31% reduction in death associated with HIV/AIDS.

Dr Sambo pointed out that all this had been made possible by the concerted action and responsibility of all stakeholders which had  resulted in significant financial investments in the AIDS response;  increased affordability of, and accessibility to, drugs and commodities; the expan-sion of  innovative service delivery approaches, and scientific advances.

To maintain the momentum in the fight against HIV/AIDS, he said, several concrete actions need to taken by all concerned.  These include: scaling up of effective interventions; more research and improved access to medicines, including antiretroviral medicines and commodities; tackling poverty and ignorance among families and households, and empowering the youth and women to address the factors that make them especially vulnerable.

“It is the collective responsibility of all to finish what has been started, in order to make universal access to prevention, treatment and care a reality. One cannot retreat now.” Dr Sambo said.

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