UNAIDS, political, business leaders partner against HIV/AIDS

New York- US (PANA) -- The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the president s of Senegal and Uganda and some leading businessmen, on Monday in New York, US, signed an agreement to eliminate the transmission of HIV from mothers to their b abies in Africa.
The partnership, under the auspices of the Millennium Villages Project, is aimed at helping local governments create ``Mother to child transmission-free zones'' in 14 `Millennium Villages' across 10 African countries.
The 10 countries that are home to the 14 Millennium Villages are Ethiopia, Ghana , Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.
The villages, located in disadvantaged rural areas, are home to approximately 50 0,000 people.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, underscored the i mportance of the partnership to salvage Africa from the scourge of HIV/AIDS and o ther preventable diseases.
Wade, however, expressed the need for ``effective leadership and political will' ' on the part of African governments to curb the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the contin e nt.
He called on his fellow African leaders to rededicate themselves to initiating n ational policies and programmes to fight the scourge, as well as educate and enl i ghten the people to support efforts to overcome the impact of HIV/AIDS.
On his part, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda identified diseases, poverty an d hunger as impediments to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Afr i ca.
Museveni urged leaders in Africa to redouble efforts to deal with health and soc ial imbalance, in order to achieve the development goals and promote growth and d evelopment among Africans.
He saluted the partnership, saying ``this initiative will mobilise resources and generate political will to save young lives, leading to a generation of African children born free of HIV''.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said: "In the whole of western Europe, t here were fewer than 100 mother-to-child transmissions in 2007, whereas in sub-S a haran Africa, there were some 370,000''.
Sidibe noted that the partnership was a major opportunity to eliminate mother-to -child transmission of HIV in Africa and save thousands of lives each year.
Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, New York, said ``the project will work with national and multilateral partners to d e velop and promote safe, appropriate and effective models that can be implemented across sub-Saharan Africa.
" PANA learnt that the initiative will use the existing infrastructure, human capa city and technical resources in the villages to help rapidly expand family- and c ommunity-centered health services to stop new HIV infections among children.
According to the UN, majority of children born with HIV each year are in sub-Sah aran Africa, where services to prevent mother-to-child transmission in the regio n remain uneven.
It also stated that ``less than half of pregnant women living with HIV receive a nti-retroviral prophylaxis essential to preventing newborns from contracting the virus''.

22 september 2009 14:19:00

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