African Development Bank Marks 2011 World AIDS Day

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This year’s global theme for the commemoration of World AIDS Day “Getting to Zero – Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS related deaths” has a deeper meaning for Africa, a continent which unfortunately still bears the largest burden of the pandemic.

Progress is being made in addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic both globally and in Africa, but the disease continues to be a major burden for the continent.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rate of new infections has decreased by around 25 percent over the last 15 years, while the number of people under antiretroviral treatment has increased by 20 percent.  The number of deaths related to AIDS has also declined.

Botswana, Namibia and Rwanda have achieved universal access with over 80 percent receiving antiretroviral therapy. However, 22.9 million adults and children are still living with HIV in Sub Saharan Africa. This represents about 68 percent of all people living with HIV globally. The region accounted for 70 percent of new HIV infections in 2010.

Women and girls are the most vulnerable to the disease with about 76 percent of all HIV positive women in the world living in Africa. Within Sub-Saharan, 59 percent of those affected by HIV/AIDS are women.

In view of the current economic crisis and the financing shortfall for HIV/AIDS, there is a critical need to ensure value for money and sustainable financing. An estimated USD22 billion is needed for HIV treatment, care and prevention. Half of this is needed for sub- Saharan Africa.  There is therefore an urgent need to change the way we do business by crafting evidence-based policies, strategies, plans and budgets, adopting innovative financing mechanisms and allocating resources according to countries’ priorities.

While countries like South Africa and Botswana may not be dependent on external financing for HIV/AIDS, given that between 70-75 percent of their financing comes from domestic resources, over 90 percent of financing for HIV/AIDS in poorer countries such as Rwanda, Malawi, and Mozambique come from external sources.

Our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS must be collective and embrace all actors in the health sector to define sustainable responses. To “get to zero”, the African Development Bank can act as a convener between actors in the international health arena and ministries of finance in the AfDB’s regional member countries. More importantly, we need to build institutional mechanisms throughout the continent to enhance people’s voice and boost the role of civil society and communities to promote behavior change.

As the premier financial development institution in Africa, the African Development Bank has contributed to Africa’s fight against HIV/AIDS both financially and technically, through its lending and technical assistance programmes. In addition, the AfDB has been working closely with its partners in different forms to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The Bank will continue to support the fight against HIV/AIDS through a number of ways. It will help obtain greater value for money by facilitating country-level dialogue and in enhancing the process whereby actors in the health sector become more accountable for the money they use and the results they obtain. We shall also deepen our social protection and inclusion programmes to protect the poor from the disease and its consequences on their families and communities. We shall increase collaboration with our partners such as UNAIDS to promote innovative approaches to resource mobilisation and service delivery. And we shall support African institutions of higher learning, including medical schools and centers of excellence in training high quality staff.

The African Development Bank is committed to the global effort to bring infection levels to zero on all fronts for African communities.