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Civic groups make stiffer health recommendations for AU summit

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Abuja 12Civil Society Organisations across Africa and have drafted stiffer key recommendations on health matters to be deliberated during the sittings of the High Panel session of the African Union summit commencing next week.

The groups, as well as leaders of the African Union, AU, Commission also embarked on peaceful protest in Abuja to demand that African countries pay more attention to health issues.

In the documents exclusively given to PREMIUM TIMES by Africa Health, Human and Social Development (Afri-Dev) Alliance, organisers of the AU Summit as well as its Pre-sessions, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other aspects of the health sector, which have been allegedly overlooked over the years, are key issues being recommended to the high panel for adoption. If adopted, these will make their way to the United Nations General Assembly in New York come September.

Top on the proposal are key issues centered on HIV/AIDS. Rosemary Mburu,  Executive Director  World AIDS Campaign, WAC, South-Africa and Kenya.. She said HIV/AIDS is key on the list of recommendations because there were 1.8 million new infections in Africa in 2011 of a total of 2.5 million worldwide. She stated that ”this is totally unacceptable and very slow in the fight in achieving a reduction in sexually transmitted infections as this”.

Hence, as a part of their recommendations, the CSOs, in the documents, called on AU member states to “make HIV prevention the cornerstone of HIV responses as per the 2011 political declaration and to significantly strengthen national and sub-national prevention programmes including their leadership, coordination, and evaluation, in order to achieve national, regional and global targets”.

The groups also called on AU member states to “ensure that the different HIV prevention approaches that have proven effective, including behavioural change programmes, HIV and social protection including structural programmes, condom promotion, tailored programmes for key populations, male circumcision were recommended and treatment for prevention are all scaled up together and synergistically and that programmatic efforts and investments are sustained over time”.

As a result of too many unverified statistics from different quarters related to HIV/AIDs in Africa, the groups also called on all stakeholders, which include development partners, civil society organisations, and networks of people living with HIV and key
populations “to provide sustained, well-coordinated and harmonized support to rights based and evidence-informed HIV prevention efforts”.

The advocates further called on the Assembly of Heads of States to endorse the Treatment 2015 Initiative in order to accelerate access to treatment through increased focused-on-demand, investment and delivery for HIV voluntary testing and counselling treatment, care and support services.

The initiative, launched by the International Labour Organization (ILO), and supported by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), seeks to target at least five million workers with Voluntary and Confidential HIV Counselling and Testing (VCT@WORK) by 2015.

This is to ensure that people who test positive are referred to HIV services for care and support, and treatment if needed.

To make this a reality, the CSOs made renewed pledges to work closely with governments, people living with HIV, PLWH, affected communities and development partners to support its implementation and make reports on its progress on a yearly basis.

They, however, called on the various African Governments to pay special attention to the impact of HIV on children, women and girls
and adolescents while requesting the African leaders to institute necessary measures in addressing the impact.

The groups also asked the AU to “ensure elimination of Mother To Child Transmission, MTCT, of HIV by 2015 and keep mothers alive” and “ensure social protection of everyone including poor and rural women as well as vulnerable and marginalised groups including young people, especially adolescent girls, and key population such as sex workers, men having sex with men and trans-genders.”

Tuberculosis

Reports indicate that the African continent has the highest TB burden in the world with 75 percent of all people who died as a result of the condition globally, emanating from Africa.

Unfortunately, only 30per cent of the national TB budget is provided by domestic government while the remaining 70per cent is from foreign donors. Of about $144 million for TB made available by the Global Funds, only six per cent of it goes to the entire African region.

Dr. Janet Byaruhanga of the department of Social Affairs, African Union Commission, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES described these as “risky”.

According to her, the fight against TB is a major priority for economic growth. Thus, domestic and international funding must be
scaled up as fighting TB would boost economic growth.

Consequently, the CSOs called on all heads of states to “increase domestic financing for TB in Africa”.

They equally called for “increased TB control and prevention efforts in the region to reduce new cases of TB as well as increase case
detection and ensure all diagnosed cases be put on treatment”.

Malaria

As a result of the embarrassing continued soaring mortality incidence and prevalence rate from malaria in the region, the African advocates and leaders also called on member states to “enforce national legislation in order to enforce the banning or use of artmesinin-based monotherapies”.

The group also called for the enforcement of testing, treatment and tracking of the disease to strengthen surveillance systems noting that it is a “cornerstone for effective malaria control especially for planning and reporting purposes”.

Integration of sexual and reproductive health

An increasing number of youth and teenagers who are sexually active are contracting HIV. Unfortunately, due to the prevailing incidences of stigmatization of PLWH in the country, many of these youth shy away from accessing treatments.

Against this background, the CSOs included the provision of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education as part of
basic life literacy for young people as a key issue that must be discussed and adopted during the forthcoming summit.

They also called for provision of “youth-friendly services to enable adolescents and young people to understand and make informed decisions about their reproductive health and plan their lives so that they can protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections and HIV and for girls, complete their education and avoid unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion and related mortality.

“Provide such education to promote values of respects for human rights, tolerance, gender equality and non-violence.

“Strengthen supply chain management systems for reproductive health commodities including contraceptives by establishing integrated supply management systems for health and increasing human resource capacity to deliver reproductive health commodity security respect, protect and fulfill sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights”.

Source: Premium Times Nigeria

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