Positive Trends Should Not Overshadow The Severity Of AIDS Epidemic: UN Official
Addis Ababa, November 30, 2002 (WIC)- The Executive
Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has warned
that positive trends in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa should not
overshadow the Severity of the epidemic in the Continent.
At a press briefing he gave at the African Union Conference
Room today, Dr. Peter Piot, warned the international community in general and
Africans in particular not to be carried away by the hopeful signs of progress
against the epidemic.
"There are encouraging signs that prevention efforts are
bearing fruit among young people in Ethiopia and South Africa as HIV prevalence
has dropped among young inner-city women in Addis Ababa and young pregnant
women in South Africa," said the Director.
However, he warned, with 30 million people in the continent
living with HIV/AIDS and five million of them newly infected by 2002, it was
not time for Africa to declare a resounding victory over the epidemic.
The death of 3.1 million Africans in 2002 and the sluggishness
of attitudinal change in some parts of the continent showed that the fight
against the epidemic was still far from victory, he added.
Regarding stigma and discrimination against HIV/AIDS victims,
he noted that they were still remaining to be the major barriers to reversing
the AIDS epidemic in addition to harming the victims through isolation.
Thus Africa should continue fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS
and the discrimination of its victims with new vigour and energy putting AIDS
at the core of NEPAD's Agenda, he stressed.
According to him, the United Nations which has already
facilitated a-90-percent price cut for anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs lowering the
annual cost to 300 dollars per year per person was more than ready to support
African countries financially and technically to enable them to have access to
However, he said, African countries should show their
commitment by exempting the importation of ARV from various taxes as failure to
do that may raise the price by 25 per cent on average.
The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa
(ECA), K.Y Amoako, on his part, said that AIDS was centeral to Africa's
development and was being taken as an urgent priority in the whole continent.
According to him, Africa must raise the issue of HIV/AIDS to
the top of the agenda, identify specific policies and facilitate their
implementation or face the reduction of its GDP by around 15 per cent.
Amako who partly attributed the current food security crisis in Southern Africa to HIV/AIDS also said that it was also threatening fragile security environments and increasing the vulnerability of weak states.