UNAIDS Executive Director Piot Says World Has ‘Political Momentum’ To Provide Funding for HIV/AIDS Fight
The world is "in the middle of a political momentum" to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said on Thursday in Livingstone, Zambia, at the opening of a meeting of representatives from U.N. agencies and the ministers of health, education and finance from six Southern Africa countries -- Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News , 3/4). South African ministers were invited to the meeting, but the government said that the ministers were "not available" to attend, according to UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura, the SAPA/AFP/Star reports (SAPA/AFP/Star, 3/5). Matsuura said that the meeting's goal was to "find better ways of working together." Piot said that we are currently experiencing a "momentum of hope" provided by antiretroviral drug treatment programs and "financial momentum" based on the recent influx of funding. He said that the current challenge is finding ways to "make this money work" (AFP/Yahoo! News , 3/4). Piot said, "It is clear we are going into a new phase in the fight against AIDS," adding, "Treatment is still very, very insufficient -- we need political mobilization" (AFP/Yahoo! News , 3/4).
National Governments, Development
Matsuura said, "National governments must play a key role" in the fight against HIV/AIDS, adding, "We must raise the awareness of political leaders." He pointed to Brazil, Cambodia, Cuba, Senegal, Thailand and Uganda as examples of countries that had made "significant efforts" to combat HIV/AIDS, according to the SAPA/AFP/Star (SAPA/AFP/Star, 3/5). Matsuura said, "Since there is no vaccine and no cure and scaled-up treatments are only now becoming available, prevention remains vital if the spread of the epidemic is to be curtailed. But we have not been able to address the issue of prevention in a way that takes hold." He added, "Whatever else it may be, AIDS is a development disaster [that is] wiping out decades of investment in education and human development. Unfortunately, we have to recognize that we are falling behind" (AFP/Yahoo! News , 3/4).
A "high-level" U.N. delegation on Friday is scheduled to travel to Lesotho to "underline the crisis facing the tiny" country -- a "devastating drought and the worsening HIV/AIDS epidemic," U.N. IRIN reports. The delegation includes Piot, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, U.N. Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa James Morris and Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf. "Lesotho's future depends on how successfully it tackles the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic, and that depends on the help of the international community," Piot said, adding, "Without our support, Lesotho has no chance of combating HIV/AIDS and will slip into perpetual crisis and, eventually, catastrophe" (U.N. IRIN, 3/4). Morris said, "Any hopes that Lesotho's humanitarian crisis would begin to ease this year have been dashed." The delegation will meet with government officials and visit some of the areas hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the drought, the SAPA/AP/Mail & Guardian reports (SAPA/AP/Mail & Guardian, 3/5).