Positive Trends Should Not Overshadow The Severity Of AIDS Epidemic: UN Official

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 it. 

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.