Photo courtesy UNAIDS
Shared responsibility and innovative new approaches are needed to solve the continuing threat of AIDS, malaria, and other communicable diseases, said participants at a special side event on public health at the opening session of the 67th General Assembly on Wednesday. African heads of state joined international experts and government officials to call for using the response to the AIDS epidemic, now entering its third decade, to be leveraged in a manner that promotes sustainable development.
“Africa has not only shown that it cares but that it has increased its capacity to provide health care for its people,” said the UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé. “Millions of lives have been saved as investments into healthcare have increased – both domestic and international.”
Of the 34 million people living with AIDS, about 22.5 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. While this staggering number is no doubt cause for concern, there are some signs of progress – new cases of HIV have dropped 22 percent over the last decade.
Representing the people of sub-Saharan Africa at this event were Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, Edith Mkawa, the Principal Secretary of Nutrition and HIV/AIDS in Malawi, and Thomas Boni Yayi, the President of Benin and current chairman of the African Union.
Mr. Yayi claimed that “foundations have to made for this generation and all future generations” to be protected against AIDS.
American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served as the meetings keynote speaker, applauding the progress that has been made in the fight against AIDS while encouraging even more action and greater continental cooperation to combat the problem within Africa.
"If every nation devastated by HIV follows the example of many of the leaders in this room, and steps up to shared responsibility, we won't just keep up our momentum, we will accelerate our progress, and move even faster toward the day when we can announce the birth of an AIDS-free generation," claimed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who delivered the event’s keynote address.
Earth Institute Director and noted economist Jeffrey Sachs shared the Secretary of State’s optimism. "I would urge every African country facing this triple challenge of AIDS, TB and malaria to scale up its health worker community cadre,” he said. “At this moment this is the most effective and most limiting factor for properly addressing the diseases in the communities."
This meeting, in the midst of the hubbub of the General Assembly’s opening session, represents the strong commitment to eradicating AIDS, and the partnership that exists between sub-Saharan African countries and their friends around the world.