World AIDS Day: Sambo tasks health workers on pry HIV prevention

Brazzaville- Congo (PANA) -- The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, has called on health workers at all levels to play a greater role in primary HIV prevention and encourage safe sex behaviour - abstinence, delay of age at first sexual intercourse, faithfulness and correct and consistent condom use - to stem the incidence of HIV/AIDS in the African Region.
Dr Sambo's appeal is contained in his message to mark this year's World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December with the theme: "Universal access and human rights".
In the message, the Regional Director urged leaders to add muscle to the fight against HIV/AIDS saying, "I call on Africa's leadership to be more outspoken about issues of sexuality, particularly in relation to safe sex, and to put in place appropriate legislation and policies that promote human rights and universal access to health care".
Dr Sambo also spoke of the "unprecedented progress" made in expansion of health sector interventions for HIV prevention, treatment and care over the past two years.
He illustrated this progress with the fact that in one year, health facilities providing HIV testing and counseling services increased by 50%, with innovative strategies enabling these services to reach more than 17 million people aged 15 years and above.
In 2008, he said, over half a million HIV pregnant women, representing 45% of those in need, received anti-retroviral drugs to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother-to-child, compared to 33% in 2007.
In addition, about 3 million HIV infected persons received antiretroviral treatment in 2008, representing a coverage rate of 44%, compared with 33% in 2007.
"It is encouraging to note that women represent 64% of the total number of beneficiaries of anti-retroviral treatment.
All this progress demonstrates the commitment of Governments, the people, civil society and development partners involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS", he added.
However, in spite of these encouraging trends, a lot more needs to be done as comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS is still limited, knowledge of HIV status remains low, more than half of the people in need do not access the life saving drugs, and the majority of patients start treatment when they are already at advanced stages of AIDS.
Also, heterosexual contact continues to remain the main mode of HIV transmission.
"These are some of the challenges we need to urgently address if we are to make an impact in reversing the trend of the epidemic in the African Region", Dr Sambo said.
He called for the intensification of HIV prevention alongside treatment and care and the redoubling of efforts to reach every district with a package of interventions that are known to be cost-effective.
These include promoting healthier life styles and behaviours, routine offer of HIV testing and counselling; screening for HIV in all pregnant women and administration of ARVs to eligible women to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV; offer of safe male circumcision services in districts with high HIV prevalence and the implementation of strategies for the control of TB/HIV co-infection.
With about 10% of the world population, the WHO African Region remains home to two-thirds of the global number of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Of the 2.
7 million new HIV infections that occurred world wide in 2007, 1.
9 million were in Africa.

01 december 2009 09:55:00

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