Ministerial session kicks-off African AIDS Summit

Abuja- Nigeria (PANA) -- The Ministerial/Technical session of the African AIDS Summit opened in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, Tuesday, prefacing a concerted effort by the continent to squarely confront the scourge of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and related infectious diseases.
Nigeria's Vice President Atiku Abubakar formally opened the session, which will work over the next two days to prepare the draft Plan of Action to be considered by the African leaders from Thursday.
Ministers from several African countries, Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Salim Ahmed Salim, and officials of several Organisations involved in the global battle against AIDS attended the opening ceremony.
In addition to speeches, the ceremony featured a rendition of songs and drama presentation by school children, illustrating the dangers posed by the debilitating disease in a continent said to be home to 70 percent of the 36 million people infected with HIV/AIDS globally.
Atiku told the well-attended session that the Abuja summit was unique since it was the first time that African leaders were coming together to "discuss how to arrest the epidemic ravaging the people of our continent.
" Describing the disease as a fundamental threat to social and economic development of Africa, the Vice-President said "now is the time to collectively stand up and fight this disease, this war.
" He stressed the need for African countries to support one another and mobilise international resources to combat AIDS.
"We must all join hands now and implement vigorously all strategies to fight the disease," he said.
"With commitments of all African governments and our international friends, we will win this war," he declared.
Earlier, Nigerian Health Minister Alphonsus Nwosu said the pandemic had assumed a crisis situation, with rising prevalence and multiple modes of infection.
Nwosu said the disease threatens to spare no one in Africa from its devastating impact, and called for an "extra- ordinary solution to this extra-ordinary problem.
" He said with a 5.
4-percent prevalence rate and actual numbers of 2.
6 million infected Nigerians, the country bore eight percent of the global burden and more than 10 percent of the African burden.
In a speech he sent to the session, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Kingsley Amoako, said the Abuja Summit constituted an important opportunity to scale up commitment to African-owned responses.
"We see it as critical to securing and sustaining the commitment of Africa's leaders at the highest possible level," he said in the speech, read by Lala Ben Barka, Deputy Executive Secretary of ECA.
"We very much hope that Abuja will be the place where our leaders articulate how they will lead the fight in their own countries," the ECA official said.
Amoako disclosed that the ECA planned to establish a Task Force with OAU, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNICEF and other relevant organisations to monitor closely the implementation of the consensus reached at the African Development Forum on AIDS in December 2000 and the Abuja Plan of Action.
A Nigerian AIDS, Yinka Jegede, told the gathering that the biggest challenge in the fight against the disease is how to overcome societal denial and stigmatisation.
Jegede, a nursing student, said the pandemic could not be overcome without the full participation of people living with AIDS.

24 avril 2001 14:19:00




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