Africa continues the quest to rid itself of HIV/AIDS and – for all the gains made since the first World AIDS Day in December 1988 – we can never be complacent. There is further to go, and we need the right policies and programs to get there.
We know the scale of the challenge. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, between 1990 and 2000, life expectancy fell to 49.5 years in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2006, UNAIDS estimated that in most Sub-Saharan African countries, HIV/AIDs had wiped out 20 years of life expectancy of our most treasured resource, the people of Africa.
We know, too, the scale of the progress. In the last 10 years, new HIV Infections in adults declined by a third, and in children over 40%. The number of AIDS-related deaths also fell by 40% in sub-Saharan Africa.
We have made great progress, especially through antiretroviral treatment centers (UNAIDS confirms a seven-fold increase in those receiving treatment since 2005) and HIV/AIDS prevention programs, including behavioral change campaigns on both sexual abstinence and fidelity.
We must maintain this progress if we are to meet the UNAIDS goal of “getting to zero” by 2030. The African Development Bank – in partnership with African countries, international organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector – will continue to play its part.
It will support Governments which continue to fashion their own, home-grown and sustainable, solutions. The priorities remain in public awareness campaigns, in the local production and distribution of antiretroviral drugs, and in keeping up a continuous and a humane response to people living with AIDS.
The Bank has taken the lead in supporting both projects and partnerships in the fight against AIDS. It includes HIV/AIDS awareness elements in some of its transport and agriculture projects. It stays agile and creative: through educational technology, for example, it helped Botswana distribute US-developed ‘TeachAIDs’ prevention software to school children between the ages of 6 and 24.
According to UNAIDS, Africa will require between US$ 11-12 billion by 2015 to fund its AIDS response. Yet, we are all aware that international funding to HIV is dwindling, putting the progress we have made at risk.
Now – faced with dwindling resources as well as other viral pandemics such as Ebola – we need to be even more cost-effective. Health spending is under pressure, and the Bank calls for AIDS-related services to be part of general healthcare delivery systems, and for ARVs to be produced locally.
It also continues to “Say No” to any form of stigmatization and discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS and their families. Women still bear the brunt of AIDS, and we will continue to support women in particular.
26 years later, Africa knows that it can “get to zero” in another 16 years – or less.