Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- A four-day workshop on "developing a strategic plan of action on gender and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the ECOWAS region" has ended in Abuja, with the adoption of recommendations to stem the rising tide of the disease in the region, an ECOWAS statement said.
The workshop, which ended late Thursday, proposed, among others, the harmonisation of laws and policies of ECOWAS countries relating to the empowerment women and youth to strengthen the fight against the disease.
It also recommended that governments of Member States ensure good and quality road network to aid the flow of drugs in the region.
In addition, participants endorsed some strategies to halt the spread of the disease and address the challenges facing people living with HIV/AIDS.
The workshop, which also considered violence against women, called on Member States to enforce laws to prevent such violence.
The participants proposed collaboration by specialized agencies and the media to sensitise the public on gender-sensitive issues.
The draft plan of action on gender and HIV agreed by the workshop will be presented to the ECOWAS Gender Commission for adoption.
Representatives from 10 ECOWAS Member States, the West African Health Organization (WAHO), specialised UN agencies such as the Joint UN Programme on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) attended the workshop.
In his remarks at the opening, ECOWAS Executive Secretary, Ibn Chambas said: "Our response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic must become substantially stronger, more strategic and better coordinated if we are to achieve the 2010 Declaration of Commitment targets.
" "HIV/AIDS is a crime against humanity and together we in the family with a joint and Herculean effort will halt the pandemic, and prolong and save millions of the lives of our people," added the ECOWAS boss, who was represented by the Director of Economic Policy, Frank Ofei.
In her speech, Berthilde Gahongayire, the Regional Adviser, Gender and HIV, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for West and Central Africa, said the underlying causes of HIV/AIDS in Africa included poverty, human trafficking, gender inequality, labour mobility and lack of education.
She also stressed the need for the harmonisation of laws and policies of ECOWAS Member States to effectively fight the spread of the epidemic, and urged the support of all stakeholders.