Speaking at the opening ceremony of the International Conference on Aids and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) in the Ethiopian capital, Mr Sidibe reminded that when only a few Africans were on the lifesaving Anti-Retroviral Drugs (ARV’s), some in the West were cynical saying Africans did not have the discipline to adhere to medication hence treating them would be tantamount to wasting money.

Africans, some argued, could not keep time and follow the clock hence they would not be able to adhere to the religious following of the schedule on when to take the life saving drugs.

“It is an important day because we want to demonstrate global solidarity can produce results. Today is a particular day to remember the 24 million Africans we lost to the epidemic. It is also a time to celebrate our successes. Many said our prevention programs would never work. But today, we have been able to prove them wrong”.

The cynicism in African interventionist programmes saw some predicting an avalanche of an epidemic in Africa by this time and although the figures are still worrying, they are hardly anywhere near the apocalyptic figures that had been presented at the turn of the century.

With the help of ARV rollout programmes in the African countries which have been largely well received, the population living with HIV has become healthier and HIV prevalence has fallen significantly in many countries including Zimbabwe, owing to amongst other factors, commitment from governments and the continued intervention programmes that have been aggressively pursued.

Sidibe also fired a salvo at the Global Fund which has postponed the rollout of the eleventh round of funding for treatment and care programmes saying they are sowing the seeds for a catastrophe.

“If we don’t pay now, we will pay forever,” said Sidibe in an impassioned speech that drew all round applause.

He said it is a known fact that people on ARV’s are most likely to die within six months of going off the life saving drugs and the postponement of the round eleven rollout meant playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.

“We are at a make it or break it moment,” Sidibe warned.

Delegates here are insisting that the time is nigh for governments in Africa to take the leading role in funding their own programmes as opposed to thinking the ‘humanitarian’ West should continue leading and ‘owning’ the response hence the theme of the year’s conference Own, Scale Up and Sustain!

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