Addis Ababa — Thirty years ago, when HIV first emerged, fear and repression triggered calls to “arrest, test, quarantine, isolate”. Today, we have brought to light the darkness of discrimination through open conversation, evidence-based advocacy and community engagement. None of this could have happened without the leadership of people living with HIV, partners, and advocates on the ground around the world who believed that we could effectively fight stigma—and who made sure that we did.
Today, the African Union Commission joins the world to celebrate the World AIDS Day and the invaluable role played by communities around the world in the HIV response. The Commission is commemorating the day under the theme: “Preventing AIDS Among Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: African Communities at the Forefront” to honour our brothers and sisters enduring HIV-related afflictions as a consequence of war and conflict in Africa.
Displacement of people from their country of origin has an enormous effect on their lives, as well as upon the lives of host communities. Conflict and displacement make women and children highly vulnerable to the risk of HIV. As refugees struggle to meet their basic needs such as food, water and shelter, women and girls are often forced to exchange sexual services for money, food or protection. Many host countries are already overburdened by the impact of HIV, and are often unable or unwilling to provide the HIV-related services refugees need and to which they have a right under international refugee and human rights law. This has to change. Where communities are engaged, we see change happen. We see investments leading to results. And we see equality, respect and dignity.
On this day, the Commission reiterates commitment to eliminating this disease in the years to come. We are leading implementation of the AU Agenda 2063 Framework and the Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030. Both policy frameworks place health at the forefront of all social and economic investment priorities for Africa’s governments. The Frameworks also place communities at the heart of solutions to make sure that interventions are localized and effective.
We have a strong backing of regional and global policy frameworks. However, the place of partnerships in the fight against AIDS in Africa is crucial. It must not be overlooked. Through partnership with UNAIDS, the Commission is implementing the Western and Central Africa Catch-Up Plan which is a political instrument between various AU Member States and the international community that supports countries strategies to accelerate national responses and reach a trajectory to achieve the 90-90-90 targets by 2020.
Our great success in preventing HIV transmission from mothers to babies demonstrates that we can make progress. Also, through partnership with the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), the Commission is implementing the Free to Shine Campaign through which the political commitment of African nations to end childhood AIDS and keep mothers healthy is reinforced. The Campaign is active in 22 AU Member States. We will continue working with governments and other partners to scale-up treatment and prevention efforts among older children in communities worldwide — with a particular emphasis on areas.
In addition, the Commission hosts the Secretariat of AIDS Watch Africa (AWA) – a statutory entity of the AU with the specific mandate to lead advocacy, resource mobilization and accountability efforts to advance a robust African response to end AIDS, TB and malaria by 2030. Through AWA, we are implementing the asks of the ALM Declaration which is a call for prioritization of health financing as a path to strengthening health systems in Africa, as well as attaining health for all.
As I conclude, I would like to emphasize that we are now in an era where changing health needs, growing public expectations, and ambitious new health goals are raising the bar for health systems to produce better health outcomes and greater social value. It is thus paramount that we examine the health needs and expectations of the community and consequentially seek to satisfy the demand. An AIDS-free generation is in sight. But with only 11 years to 2030, we must re-commit to this goal, and work together to make it happen.
H.E Amira Elfadil Mohamed is Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union Commission
About AIDS Watch Africa
AIDS Watch Africa (AWA) is a statutory entity of the AU with the specific mandate to lead advocacy, resource mobilization and accountability efforts to advance a robust African response to end AIDS, TB and malaria by 2030. AWA was created following a special summit of African Heads of State and Government in April 2001 in Abuja, Nigeria, to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other related infectious diseases.
The AWA Heads of State and Government Action Committee (AWA Action Committee) serves as the primary structure of AWA. The AU Chairperson serves as the AWA Chairperson. The Secretariat is located within the AUC Department of Social Affairs, Division of AIDS, TB, Malaria and Other Infectious Diseases.
The overall objective of the AWA Experts Consultative Meeting is to undertake in-depth discussion around issues impeding the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as public health threats in Africa. The meeting is annual and provides a platform to highlight issues that should be tabled to Heads of States and Government in AU Member States during the successive AU Summit.