Ethiopia: IGAD health ministers strategise HIV/AIDS control amongst pastoralists

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - East African ministers of health kicked off talks on Wednesday on how to effectively prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst the pastoralist communities across the Horn of Africa region.

The minister are attending a regional scientiffc conference to explore strategies to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, including Ebola.

"Our focus should be on diseases targeted for elimination, such as polio, because unless there is cross-border collaboration, these diseases would not be eliminated," Ethiopian Health Minister, Kesete Birhan Admassu, warned.

The Ministers and officials from the various national agencies tasked with research and prevention of HIV/AIDS, are holding talks to agree on measures to boost the fight against the pandemic.

There are renewed fears of HIV spreading amongst the largely pastoralist communities with other communities, previously isolated, now coming in contact with foreigners and visitors engaged in other activities, including oil exploration and exploitation of other resources.

Elioda Tumwesigye, Ugandan State Minister of Health, said ensuring proper healthcare for pastoralist communities across East Africa, required a thorough examination of the economic trends, taking the movement of truck drivers and even peacekeepers.

"We need cross border health committees and health posts such as those that we have set up between Uganda and Kenya and Uganda and South Sudan," Tumwesigye said.

The Ugandan official said tackling healthcare challenges involving mobile populations should also focus on the truck drivers who, due to their travel, might need regular medical assistance, like getting life prolonging Anti Retroviral Drugs (ARVs) from other countries.

"Let us focus on (transport) corridors not just borders. Let us also focus on our uniformed services personnel who are traveling from Kenya, Somalia, Darfur in Sudan, so that we can have more healthcare collaboration in order to combat HIV/AIDS in mobile populations," Tumwesigye said.

Djiboutian Health Minister, Kassim Osman, said the conference in Addis Ababa, 3-6 Dec., would address issues of maternal healthcare, healthcare of refugees and immigrants and sexual and reproductive healthcare.

"It is a platform to share experiences on cross-border populations. These populations (pastoralists) go beyond health and have effects on other structures that open the door to the spread of other diseases," said the Djiboutian minister.

The conference has been convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as part of its efforts and original mandate of dealing with drought in the Horn.

There are about 40 million pastoralists in the Horn of Africa region, who are the main targets of the current effort to secure strong resolutions to strengthen healthcare systems.
-0- PANA AO/MA 3Dec2014

03 december 2014 20:54:04

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