Empowerment of Grassroots Communities, Provision of Condoms, Antiretrovirals Slowing Spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, Report Says
The mobilization of grassroots communities and the provision of condoms and antiretroviral drugs are beginning to slow the spread of Africa's HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to a World Bank report released on Wednesday in Kigali, Rwanda, Reuters reports. The report examines the progress of the World Bank's Multi-Country HIV/AIDS Program -- a six-year, $1.28 billion initiative that was launched in 2000 to boost access to HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment programs. According to the report, the project provided HIV tests to nearly seven million people in 25 countries in Africa; dispensed nearly 1.3 billion condoms; and set up 1,500 new counseling centers. The project also funded activities for community-based organizations, youth groups and organizations for people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, it provided antiretroviral access to 26,699 people in 27 countries (Asilmwe, Reuters, 6/13).
The project also provided services to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission to 1.5 million women in 23 countries; reached about two million workers in 23 countries with HIV awareness and care campaigns in the workplace; offered care and support for nearly two million AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children in 21 countries; provided treatment for opportunistic infections to about 300,000 people in 20 countries; and trained about 600,000 people and strengthened health systems that helped launch antiretroviral treatment programs in recent years.
The report said the success of efforts aimed at curbing HIV/AIDS in Africa will depend on the establishment of effective prevention, care and treatment programs to strengthen African countries' "social immune systems." This includes altering beliefs, perceptions, and social and individual behaviors associated with the disease (World Bank release, 6/14). The report noted progress in Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe, as well as in urban Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi and Zambia. It also said that Southern Africa remains the most affected region on the continent and that Eastern Africa faces a mixed epidemic, with high numbers of new HIV cases occurring among commercial sex workers (BBC News, 6/14).
Although global HIV/AIDS funding has more than quadrupled between 2001 and 2005 to more than $8 billion annually, the disease will remain an economic and social challenge to sub-Saharan Africa in the near future, according to the report. "In sum, HIV/AIDS threatens the development goals in the region unlike anywhere else in the world," the report concluded (Reuters, 6/13). Miriam Schneidman of the World Bank said, "Prevention messages, early testing, prevention of mother-to-child transmission -- it's been this holistic approach that we think has really provided the strong results that we're seeing." Joy Phumaphi of the World Bank's Human Development Network, who also served as former health minister of Botswana, said, "AIDS stole into Africa like a thief in the night, and all these years later, we still must stay vigilant against this terrible disease ... even when it seems that infections are starting to fall and more and more people are being saved with treatment" (BBC News, 6/14).
The report is available online.