Getting to Zero in 2015: Eliminating new Pediatric HIV infections holds the key

AIDS Watch Africa Blog | September 3, 2013

Recently, the Africa Union (AU) held a special summit to review the status of African governments’ investment and the various national responses to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other related infectious diseases. The summit, titled the Abuja+12 Special Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria concluded with a new declaration to eliminate these diseases in Africa by 2030. This is an important milestone in AU’s ongoing commitment to achieve an AIDs-free generation.

Africa, which bears the highest global burden of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, has made great strides since the first AU declaration on this issue in April 2001. Twelve years ago, the AU pledged to increase government funding for health to at least 15 percent, and urged donor countries to scale up support. The Abuja Declaration was successful in creating momentum and authority for civil society to hold governments accountable to their commitments.

This most recent declaration is moving these past efforts forward. During the Abuja +12 Summit, the AU committed to a raft of measures to promote maternal health, accelerate antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to children and adolescents, and increase access to HIV prevention programs in order to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV. They also committed to mobilize domestic resources, strengthen health systems, and ensure suitable legislative environments.

These measures constitute significant progress for implementing the Global Plan Towards the Elimination of New HIV infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping their Mothers Alive. The Global Plan seeks to reduce the number of new HIV infections in children by 90 percent and reduce the number of AIDS-related maternal deaths by 50 percent by 2015. What is now required for the next 900 days to meet these and other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is action.

“Political commitments are very important,” said Dr. Nicholas Muraguri, Director of the Global Steering Group Secretariat, of Global Plan. “The greatest achievements in HIV prevention and treatment programs are observed in countries where there is commitment from the top.”

The Abuja +12 commitments signify the political will of African Heads of State to eliminate HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Countries now need to develop structures including human resources, relevant programs, and adequate resource allocation to achieve these goals. These resources can ensure prevention and treatment services are available to all people who need them. The bigger challenge will be to ensure each country government takes the requisite steps to execute the agreed actions.

Civil society will have to increase their efforts to ensure governments fulfill their promises. It is civil society’s duty to involve communities in forming the structures and programs so the governments can be responsive to the needs of the affected people. Apart from promoting meaningful community involvement, civil society can provide analysis and people-focused models that can help the government to translate the global and regional commitments such as the Abuja Declarations and MDGs into tangible health benefits for all the citizenry.

African governments, in collaboration with the civil society, can have a tremendous impact on the health of the continent in the few days that are remaining before the 2015 deadline. The focus must remain on the goals but must be owned and put into action at national and local levels to achieve a lasting effect on the lives of millions of people across Africa.

Rhoda Igweta Murangiri is Senior Public Policy Officer, Africa at Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.