UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin delivering a speech on behalf of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
ABUJA, Nigeria — African leaders met in the Nigerian capital for a Special Summit of the African Union on the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and other life-threatening diseases in Africa.
The Special Summit, dubbed Abuja +12, was an opportunity to review progress and identify factors that underpin the continuing burden of HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria on the continent since the 2001 Abuja Declarations, when African leaders pledged to put the fight against these diseases at the forefront of their national development plans and to increase government funding for health to at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets.
Speaking at the Summit, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called on African leaders to sustain the progress made so far in combating HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but also to identify persistent gaps in promoting universal access to health services and well-being in Africa. He also urged Member States to strengthen cooperation between governments and development partners to reduce wastages. “Meeting the needs of Africans is the collective goal,” he said.
Shaping the future of health in Africa
The Special Summit concluded with a renewed and strong commitment to build on the achievements of the past 12 years to forge ahead towards the elimination of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria in Africa.
The pledge included calls to integrate concrete strategies for eliminating the pandemics into poverty elimination and social protection programmes, as well as to increase access to prevention programmes for youth, particularly young women. Eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV was also designated as a priority.
To tackle these pandemics, African leaders also agreed to intensify the mobilization of domestic resources and reduce dependency on foreign aid to strengthen health systems.
Indicating Nigeria’s commitment to these objectives, President Jonathan unveiled the 'Programme of Action and Development Blueprint for HIV/AIDS', a new road map targeted at achieving universal access to the prevention, treatment, care and support for Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS.
Delivering a speech on behalf of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin noted that at the beginning of this century, Africa’s leaders declared the AIDS epidemic a full-fledged emergency and made unprecedented commitments on Tuberculosis and Malaria. Since then, partners have rallied global support, “triggering one of the most spectacular responses in the history of infectious diseases.”
Before 2001, HIV treatment in Africa was almost nonexistent. By 2012, 7.5 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy. Africa is also leading the world in the drive to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV by 2015.
While in Abuja, Dr. Osotimehin took the opportunity to visit the Nigerian Minister of Youth Development, Inuwa Abdul-Kadir, to discuss the need for age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, particularly for young girls.
But HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and other infectious diseases still pose a threat to well-being and development in sub-Saharan Africa, where Tuberculosis infection rates remain the highest in the world, one in 20 adults lives with HIV, and every minute a child dies of Malaria.
With less than a thousand days remaining until the Millennium Development Goals deadline, “this Summit can provide a tipping point in Africa’s progress on health,” said Dr. Osotimehin, conveying the Secretary-General’s message. “Let us place AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria at the centre of public health policy, including in humanitarian aid, peace building, conflict resolution and development.”
Abuja +12 was hosted by the African Union in collaboration with the Nigerian Government under the theme ‘Ownership, Accountability and Sustainability of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Response in Africa: Past, Present and the Future’.