Conference in Rwanda Aims To Improve HIV/AIDS Services
The HIV/AIDS Implementers' Meeting: Scaling Up Through Partnerships, a four-day conference that aims to improve HIV/AIDS services, opened on Saturday in Kigali, Rwanda, the New Times/AllAfrica.com reports. More than 2,000 delegates attended the conference, which was hosted by the Rwandan government and organized by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Other organizers include UNAIDS, the World Bank, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the conference opening called on African leaders to increase funding for HIV/AIDS services. He also said that the fight against diseases like HIV/AIDS should be made in conjunction with efforts to address poverty and education. "We now have global consensus that the struggle against this disease can only bear effective results if tackled within the border framework of sustainable development," Kagame said (Musoni, New Times/AllAfrica.com, 6/17).
The conference participants shared best practices in the fight against HIV, according to Reuters. Participants on Saturday focused on ways to prevent the spread of the virus. "If we do not act now to make HIV prevention work better, the queues for HIV treatment will just get longer and responding to AIDS will get more expensive and more difficult," Michel Sibide, deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said.
Although East and West Africa have recorded declines in HIV prevalence in recent years, Southern Africa remains the most affected region on the continent, according to Reuters. David Wilson, a senior monitoring and evaluation specialist at the World Bank, said this in part is because male circumcision is not widespread in Southern Africa. He added that the region has not addressed HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination as well as East Africa. Conference participants also discussed access to antiretroviral drugs, Reuters reports. "Treatment has made us complacent, and so what we need to do is redouble prevention efforts and make people aware treatment is only a partial solution," Wilson said (Asiimwe, Reuters, 6/16).
PEPFAR, WHO Announce New Approach To Fight HIV/AIDS
In related news, PEPFAR and WHO on Thursday ahead of the conference's opening announced a new approach, called "Task Shifting," to fight HIV in developing countries, the New Times/AllAfrica.com reports.
The new strategy will involve three elements: treat, train and retain, according to the New Times/All Africa.com. Treat will involve providing treatment, prevention, care and support services to health care workers who are affected by the virus. Train will involve implementing measures to empower health workers to provide universal access to HIV/AIDS services. Retain will include strategies to help public health systems retain workers through financial and other incentives, as well as occupational health and safety programs. Task Shifting also will seek to train community workers and volunteers. According to the New Times/AllAfrica.com, a meeting on the new approach is scheduled to be held between October and November (Buyinza, New Times/AllAfrica.com, 6/18).
"Improving harmonization and placing a greater emphasis on 'making the money work'" for health workers "should be high" on the HIV Implementers' Meeting agenda, a Lancet editorial says. The conference also should address efforts to "ensure accountability from countries and from donors over the long term," the editorial says. The "participation of many international co-sponsors" and the "exemplary leadership" of the Rwandan government are "strong signal[s]" of the coordination and collaboration in the global response to HIV/AIDS, the editorial says, adding that only "through joint efforts from all sectors and at all levels will the move toward universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support be achieved" (Lancet, 6/16).
Webcasts of select sessions from the 2007 HIV Implementers' Meeting will be available online soon from kaisernetwork.org.