Sub-Saharan Africa remains heavily burdened with HIV/AIDS as 24 million people living with the virus are found in this region. The world over 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.
This means 70 percent of the burden heavily rests with the region. What is it that needs to be done so that the scenario changes from this sad reality?
Jackie Makokha, UNAIDS Social Mobilisation advisor said that the region needs to think outside the box and adopt a business unusual approach.
“We need to do business unusual. The approach that we are above the situation brings about a sense of relaxation. This false hope will see the gains made being eroded if we do not guard the gains made with caution,” said Makokha.
Makokha was addressing the Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition at an indaba in December last year in Lusaka , Zambia.
“Behaviour change remains pivotal in the response to the HIV epidemic and the need to continue to address behavioural change and to invest efforts in prevention is called on. Effort needs to be made to mitigate the rise of risky sexual behaviour and avert poor adherence of treatment,” she said.
Efforts must continue to be made to ensure that with the expansion of treatment, complacency does not set in. Achievements are only possible through a team effort, reinforcing accountability with resources and working across disciplines and departments.
“A major lesson in the experience of implementation of treatment as prevention is the need to avoid a lag period between testing and treatment initiation, to prevent losing people,” she said.
“Community leaders, champions like you women here need to promote adherence and retention of patients. So our relationship with Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition is not of a funder, it is of technical expertise as partners,” she concluded.
The meeting ended with an AGM on day two and a board was elected as the transitional steering committee handed over the reins. Dorothy Onyango of Kenya was elected chairperson.
Tendai Westerhof of Zimbabwe was elected secretary while Elsie Ayeh from Ghana was elected treasurer of PAPWC. Five regional representatives make the board together with Onyango for East Africa, Eman Said – Northern Africa, Elsie Ayeh, Western Africa, and Madeline Eijenga – Central Africa.
Lydia Mungherera from Uganda and Evelyn Letio from South Sudan were elected from the former steering committee for continuity of institutional memory. Seven alternate members were elected to the board. A young woman below the age of thirty living with HIV and a woman with a disability will be appointed to the board in due course.