Tanzania Hopes to Reverse Spread of AIDS in Five Years

New York- UN (PANA) -- Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa has said that his country should be able to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS in the next five years, given the current level of national mobilisation against the disease.
"We are now at the stage of all-round mobilisation that will result in the total reversal of the trend in the next five years," the president said Wednesday at press conference in New York where he has been attending a special session of the UN General Assembly on AIDS.
Mkapa said Tanzania's anti-AIDS efforts stand to succeed because it has taken all necessary measures that address bottlenecks in the war against AIDS.
Stressing that leadership was imperative for success in the war against AIDS, he said that his government has given the needed commitment to prevention of the disease, caring for patients and orphans and seeking treatment.
But beyond that, he said, Tanzania has also taken measures to tackle poverty and the problems of fear and ignorance about the disease.
To deal with fear and ignorance, Tanzania has mounted major public education and enlightenment campaigns, involving the youth, religious leaders and community groups.
The government has also been encouraging people to go for testing, Mkapa said.
Poverty is also being tackled through a macroeconomic reform programme that has been in place in the past five years with the support of multilateral financial institutions and bilateral donors, Mkapa said.
Under the reforms, he said, Tanzania's economy has started growing, having attained 4.
5 percent last year and should reach eight percent by 2004.
Economic reforms have also opened the way for Tanzania to be eligible for debt relief, the president said, adding that Tanzania would reach a point to begin to draw on debt relief funds in three months.
When this happens, the country would have more resources to pursue a number of social programmes, including the tackling of AIDS, he added.
Even though Tanzania has limited resources, it is prepared to commit what it has to the fight against AIDS, having allocated 40 million US dollars for the problem in the current budget, Mkapa said.
But he also observed that Tanzania would not be able to reach the target of 15 percent budgetary allocation to the health sector as recommended by African leaders during their Abuja summit on AIDS in April.
Mkapa stressed the need for richer countries to be more responsive to the Global AIDS Fund proposed by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The fund is expected to provide a pool of resources for addressing the AIDS crisis in developing countries.
Even there have been little response to the fund, Mkapa said, he expected the contributions would eventually come, adding that he would continue to press for funds at any opportune moment.
The AIDS fund, whose annual target is between seven and 10 billion dollars, has so far received only about 700 million dollars in pledges.
President Olusegun Obasanjo pledged Nigeria's contribution of 10 million dollars to the fund at the special session.
Among other African countries, Kenya contributed 7,000 dollars; Uganda, two million dollars and Zimbabwe one million dollars.
An agreement was reached late Tuesday on a declaration of commitment on AIDS, which is to be issued at the end of the meeting Wednesday.

27 june 2001 19:58:00

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