Feb 15th, 2013 3:13 PM UTC
By Wangui Muchiri
Beautiful. Sophisticated. Elegant. Intelligent. Creative. Bold. But above all, humble.
I remember meeting Goldie for the first time right after the 2012 Big Brother Africa show had concluded. I had gone to drop both Prezzo and Goldie to meet Prezzo’s Mum’s at her flat in Sandton, Johannesburg, to say hello.
When Goldie met Prezzo’s mum, she moved from being a sophisticated posh girl, to her knees to show respect and acknowledge being in the presence of someone she highly regarded. While this is traditional in many African cultures, it is not common practice. We all fell in love with her immediately.
We met a few more times after that, in South Africa and the United States. I personally admired how Goldie had mastered the art of being a modern African woman. She was proudly Nigerian, no doubt, yet the pop culture world she had embraced, had done nothing to erode her African values.
Goldie had a naturally nurturing nature, and she took care of those she cared about without a second thought. After spending a few days with her, you could tell this was a God fearing, well bred girl, and her future had the sky as the limit.
Goldie’s unexpected death is shocking. Africa has been robbed of a lady full of passion and a relentless spirit to change her own world, and the world of those who live in it for the better.
Dec 13th, 2012 6:12 PM UTC
By Malaka Gharib
ONE went behind the scenes to see what a normal day at the office was like at Positive-Generation (PG), the winner of this year’s Africa Award. PG uses advocacy to pressure government leaders to protect the safety and health of HIV-positive individuals in Cameroon. Learn more about the organization here.
Dr. Elat Jean Bosco, head of Cameroon’s National AIDS Control Committee, tells us about the government’s work to control and reduce the spread of HIV, as urged on by Positive-Generation and other CSOs.
In addition to its advocacy efforts targeting the government, Positive-Generation’s members and volunteers actively engage in educating citizens about HIV, safe sex and other health concerns at local markets in Cameroon’s cities.
To make the most of its data and analysis, Positive-Generation issues weekly reports on the state of Cameroon’s health care delivery. These reports are instrumental in convincing the government to improve its health services and provide the necessary drugs and supplies at its clinics and hospitals.
Dec 13th, 2012 5:46 PM UTC
By ONE Partners
Positive-Generation Executive Director Fogue Foguito shares his powerful remarks to ONE after receiving the 2012 Africa Award on behalf of his organization. His message, which reflects on advocacy’s true role in development, is Positive-Generation’s promise to ONE and the NGO community to fight HIV/AIDS through justice and human rights.
We do not know how to express our profound gratitude at receiving this distinguished award, which is beyond our individual merits. Every man, every organization or artist, seeks recognition. We are no different.
But it was hard to believe ONE’s decision. When the news came, we started panicking, wondering how such a young organization, rich in ideas but whose work is still in progress, could have been selected. Furthermore, how could we accept such an honor when in Africa, other organizations have been silenced? How could we accept it at a time when the problems being decried by such organizations are being written off as myths? Where every victory is challenged by a new setback?
We gathered our thoughts. Since we can not only attribute this distinction only to our own merits, we thought it very appropriate to turn to those organizations that have stood by us during difficult times, throughout our short existence, and who have promoted our role as advocates and as a community-based organization. Let me, with respect assure you that we are up to the task.
Personally, the challenges we face in the field tell us how important advocacy is. But we have never placed this role above everything. On the contrary, the field challenges enable frequent meetings between men and women, between communities, and these allow us to move at the level of all, with all and for all.
In our view, advocacy is not an isolated exercise. It is a means of reaching out and mobilizing the largest number of people and sharing a common image of sufferings and joys. Advocacy enables people to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives. It is therefore an obligation to the advocate not to function in isolation. In this context he/she is permanently in contact with people. And whoever chooses his/her destiny as an advocate or an actor of development needs to learn as fast as possible to bring together forces that share a similar vision to his/hers.
A community-based organization like ours is in permanent contact with others, and our dream is that the realities of the communities with which we work, will one day be felt by all. That is why true advocacy organisations do not take anything lightly; they are obliged to understand rather than to judge. And if they have to take sides, they take the side of a vision of society that devoid of injustice, where underdevelopment and dehumanizing actions are a thing of the past.
At the same time, an organization like ours cannot shy away from difficult tasks. Positive-Generation is at the service of those who suffer and we must not shy away from such a vocation. Throughout our existence we have received our fair share of difficulties, in serving two basic principles: truth and freedom.
Since we aim to improve the living conditions of the communities we serve, we stand against lies and any other actions that promote injustice. Not withstanding our individual weaknesses, we strive to route our actions in two difficult but crucial commitments: taking a stand against lies and half-truths; and resisting oppression.
Given our role as advocates, it would be remiss of us not to take this opportunity to launch a strong appeal to our decision makers for more investment, and more political and financial commitment to people’s health, especially in the context of HIV/AIDS. Tremendous efforts have been made in recent years, but much still remains to be done, and this is the time to multiply our efforts.
Let me not divert attention from the major challenge; the issue of permanent access to treatment remains a dream to our people in Africa. If we consider just the issue of antiretroviral therapy, it is a question of fundamental human rights.
It is an issue of social justice, civility and especially democracy. Looked at in this way, it is difficult for a State to distance itself from its obligation to protect its populations. In a nutshell, the degree of the respect of the rights of affected people is a barometer of development, and importantly, is a true indicator of the degree of humanity, solidarity, civility and democracy of a nation.
Each new generation believes they can rebuild the world. Mine knows that this is not possible. But we do believe we can protect the world from further destruction. We are in a critical moment in the global effort to fight AIDS; in a context marked by decreasing financial resources; where financial crises are used as a pretext today to justify the threat on the lives of millions of people in the world and in Africa in particular.
Faced with this situation, today, we call on African leaders to muster enough courage and the political will of the fathers of African independence, to say no to this entire dependence tendency, and to take seriously their own responsibilities.
Let us reflect a little on who we really are, our limitations, our doubts, our sorrows. We feel easier, in accepting this award, to do so as a tribute to all those who share in the same struggle, but who, rather than receiving prizes, have instead experienced misfortune and persecution.
Here, my regards go to those ordinary – in fact extraordinary – men and women, who have inspired us. I think of Joseph Pouagam, Daniel Nonze, Dr. Charles Kouanfack, Flavien Ndonko, the late Gisèle Kengne and many others. We equally think of partner organizations such as ACMS (Cameroon Social Marketing Association), RAME, Act Up Paris, AIDES, Solidarité Sida, Coalition 15%, MOCPAT, GTIA and all community base organisation in Cameroon, who have spared no effort in supporting us in this journey.
We express our sincere thanks from the bottom of our hearts, and publicly declare our gratitude and appreciation for this award.
Long live the struggle for development and human right.s Long live the promotion of health. Long live Cameroon. God Bless Africa.
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Dec 3rd, 2012 6:55 PM UTC
By Nealon DeVore
Our next finalist for the 2012 ONE Africa Award is the dynamic organization Friends of the Global Fund Africa, or better known as Friends Africa. I visited Friends Africa in Lagos last month to hear their incredible story.
After serving as a technical advisor on Global Fund-financed projects in Nigeria for three years in the early 2000s, Dr. Akudo Ikemba realized that more needed to be done in order to ensure the effectiveness of Global Fund monies on the ground. She also saw an untapped need to raise awareness and support for the Global Fund amongst African citizens. When she saw some of the work being done by Friends of the Fight (USA) and Amis du Fonds Mondial and other Global Fund partners, she realized that Africa needed its own “Friends” that could bring governments, business leaders and citizens together to build support for the Global Fund and further its work by raising funds and commitments from African political and corporate leaders. At about the same time, the Global Fund invited Dr. Ikemba to discuss the formation of a partner organization for Africa and a few months later, Friends Africa officially opened its door in Lagos.
Since 2006, Friends Africa has been at the forefront of building and demonstrating African support for the Global Fund. It has raised commitments of $31 million through its Africa Champions from Health campaign, which enlists former heads of states and political leaders to call on African governments to support the the fund’s work. Through its Gift from Africa program, it has secured an additional $5 million from the private and corporate sectors for the Global Fund since 2010.
How does it do this? By strategically using former African heads of state, titans of business, and artists to engage governments and leading enterprises to obtain commitments for the Global Fund. As the developed world faces budget and fiscal crises, it is increasingly important for the developing world to not only support the work of institutions like the Global Fund, but also contribute to its functioning and financing. Friends Africa is doing just this.
Raising the funds and financing for an institution like the Global Fund, though, is just one side of the coin that is Friends Africa. In addition to its high level advocacy, Friends Africa is changing the face of the fight against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis every day. They have extensive programs that are building capacity at local, national and regional levels to engage in advocacy and direct services in their communities. Moreover, Friends Africa is also leading the charge in engaging small to medium enterprises – not just corporate giants – on the policies they have in place for their employees facing these diseases. Friends Africa is truly leading an African response to an African problem, taking the fight to the board rooms and the store rooms of African businesses. To truly turn the tide against these killer diseases, Friends Africa has gone where many have yet to tread—to the enterprising leaders and employers of a bulk of Africa’s hardworking citizens. Friends Africa is not only funding the fight, but also changing the face of these diseases to reduce stigmatization and stereotypes.
And while high-level and grassroots advocacy is a big part of Friends Africa’s work, Friends also produces reports that policy makers and citizens can use around the continent. They are impacting the debates without necessarily being in the room, and leveraging a network of consultants to provide technical assistance to governments seeking funding for reproductive health and HIV projects. As one can see, Friends Africa not only advocates at all levels, but also provides its own substantive contribution to the ongoing struggle against these diseases.
Nov 28th, 2012 5:01 PM UTC
For this World AIDS Day, ONE agriculture expert Kelly Hauser highlights four stellar agriculture programs that are working to improve the incomes and nutrition of people living with HIV and their families.
I’m no HIV/AIDS expert, but I know that it’s incredibly hard for people living with HIV and their families to rise out of poverty for many reasons: decreased productivity as a result of being sick, stigma and discrimination, or the death of family members who would have helped young people to learn a trade. Agriculture, which is a source of income and food for two-third of Africans, and nutrition, which is key to getting well, staying well and being productive, are intricately linked to poverty in Africa.
Thus, for World AIDS Day, I’m highlighting four programs that address both incomes and nutrition of HIV-affected people in Africa: a village poultry project in Mozambique, a horticulture growing association in Kenya, a permaculture training program for orphans in Malawi, and hospital gardening in South Africa.
Kyeema Foundation: The Kyeema Foundation’s Village Poultry Project is working with women in Mozambique who are both farmers and caregivers for family members with HIV/AIDS. Kyeema is working with the women to help them raise chickens – which provide nutritious meat, eggs and fertilizer. Chicken farming is a great option for these burdened women since chickens, which eat insects and kitchen scraps, are relatively easy to raise and they provide a much-needed source of protein for sick family members, who require more protein than healthy family members.
Chepterit Horticultural Growers Organization: This organization is made up of Kenyan women living with HIV who are working together to increase their incomes. The US government’s global food security initiative, Feed the Future, helped the organization set up a passion fruit nursery, taught them about drip irrigation and sustainable pest control, and linked them to a reliable market. Last year, the nursery sold $16,000 worth of seedlings and 7,500 kilograms of passion fruit. Many members are now saving money and several joined together to purchased land to expand their farming. “This project brought hope back into our community,” Irine Zippy Kalamai says. “I now believe that if farmers can easily access quality seeds, they will have a better yield and ultimately high incomes.”
Permaculture for Orphans and Vulnerable Children: Worldwide, 16.6 million children have lost parents due to HIV. In losing their parents, most of these children also lose their access to farming knowledge. Feed the Future is working to counteract that by teaching permaculture, a type of sustainable agriculture that includes eating nutritious and local foods, to orphaned and vulnerable children in Malawi and elsewhere. Permaculture emulates natural ecosystems while providing food for consumption and sale, creating a self-sustaining system that is quite different from the monocropping of industrial agriculture. In the backyard of the Malawi program managers, children learn about nutrition and how to intersperse trees and indigenous crops, raise bees to pollinate, recycle used kitchen water and compost toilet waste to help fertilize crops. Not only are they learning to make a living, they are also learning to live healthier.
GardenAfrica: GardenAfrica is a UK-based organization that works with the organization South Africa HIV to train HIV patients to garden and supply them with healthy foods. They work behind the courtyard walls of clinics and hospitals to maintain training gardens, where patients learn and grow food. Participants learn about organic gardening, irrigation, nutrition, medicinal plants and new styles of cooking. They take home vegetables and starter packs with instructions and seeds for tomatoes, spinach, chard, broccoli, cabbage and many other vegetables and herbs.
These are only a few of the programs out there, but around the world nutrition and self-sustaining agriculture are making people stronger and healthier in the fight to end AIDS and extreme poverty.
Jul 24th, 2012 10:00 AM UTC
By Erin Hohlfelder
The Global Village is the one section of the International AIDS Conference that’s free and open to the general public, and it’s meant to be a place for people from all walks of life to mingle, learn, and network.
Among the thousands of attendees, one Global Village participant yesterday stood out: award-winning singer and humanitarian Yvonne Chaka Chaka, a long-time friend of ONE better known as the “Princess of Africa.” She took a quick break from her many fans to record a message for ONE members about this year’s conference in Washington DC—check it out!
Jul 19th, 2012 12:23 PM UTC
This post from Adrian Lovett originally appeared in the Huffington Post
This week we celebrated Nelson Mandela’s birthday and it is a time for us to reflect on the achievements of the great man. I was lucky enough to share a stage with him in Trafalgar Square in 2005 for Make Poverty History. Today we still share a belief that what we pledged to do that day can be achieved.
Since he left prison in Paarl in 1990 after 27 years, Mr Mandela’s continent has arguably undergone changes as dramatic as any other, certainly in recent years. The Millennium Development Goals have helped focus leaders from around the world on the task of halving extreme poverty and fighting preventable disease and the results have been dramatic.
In the field of health, maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa is down by over 40%, child mortality has fallen by 30%, in large part due to extensive vaccination campaigns which have seen more than 5.4 million children’s lives saved in Africa between 2000 and 2009. And new vaccines recently developed against some of the biggest killers of children – diarrhoea and pneumonia– will save even more lives in the coming years.
The progress made against HIV/AIDS is staggering. Nearly 4 million Africans have been placed on life preserving antiretroviral treatment since 2002. And we now know how to prevent mothers passing HIV onto their children.
In education more than three-quarters of children on the continent are enrolled in primary education, over 46 million of these children since 1999, as Africa’s teachers set out to create the continent’s leaders of tomorrow.
Each life saved and life changed is living proof of the incredible progress we have all helped achieve.
These statistics feed into a bigger picture about the how the rest of the world has come to perceive Africa. Once dismissed as the “hopeless continent” it is now home to six of the ten fastest growing economies on the planet and foreign investment continues to flow in. Premier League football team Sunderland Athletic recently announced a two-year shirt sponsorship deal with “Invest in Africa”. With its vast natural resources, innovative tech entrepreneurs and growing working-age population Africa’s potential has seen it described by fund managers as “the best investment story on the planet.”
These examples, whilst impressive, are only a checkpoint on the road to 2015. Mr Mandela knew as much in 2005 in Trafalgar Square saying: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” We have achieved so much, but we cannot rest now that we are nearly there. Still 7.6m children die of preventable treatable diseases each year and a billion people go to bed hungry every night.
There is no reason to believe that we cannot finish the job. It is a long walk, but Mr Mandela is used to those. We have 1000 days between now and the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It may not seem like long but a lot can change in 1000 days if minds are focused and leaders committed. In just over 1000 days from walking free from prison, Nelson Mandela and others managed achieve what was unthinkable to many: to peacefully end apartheid and draw up a road map for a new nation.
In honour of the man himself and in recognition of his 67 years of public service, people around the world are choosing to mark Mandela Day by giving 67 minutes of their time to help others, be it towards the MDGs or local projects. My pledge is to keep working for the MDGs and to rally others to do the same, whether it’s joining ONE or making your own Mandela pledge.
Because of what has been achieved in recent years in the fight against poverty and disease, an entire generation of us in our twenties, thirties and forties can realistically contemplate a world where these scourges can actually be wiped out. In a few years, we could see the elimination of polio, even the beginning of the end of AIDS. We can plan for a time when no child is born with HIV, when diarrhoea and pneumonia rarely claim lives, when famine is a Biblical notion, not a present-day obscenity, and when extreme poverty is on the way to being a thing of the past. These goals are within our grasp and we should be determined to achieve them. Let’s be determined to take some great strides forward – not only in our lifetimes, but in Nelson Mandela’s too.
Mar 8th, 2012 10:10 AM UTC
By ONE Partners
Here’s a post from our friends at the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) in honor of International Women’s Day. KAVI is a collaborator of ONE’s partner the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).
The first person in Kenya to speak publicly about her participation in an HIV vaccine trial, in 2001, was a woman. She was a former classmate of mine and also a medical doctor. I was fascinated to learn that this exciting research was happening right at my doorstep. Not long after, I left my position in the emergency room of a local hospital to join the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative.
It’s becoming more widely known that African women bear the greatest burden of HIV/AIDS worldwide. According to UNAIDS, 59% of all people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women. What is less well known is the immense contribution African women have made and continue to make to HIV-prevention research. For instance, the first clues that an AIDS vaccine might be possible came from African women. These were a small subset of sex workers in Nairobi and the Gambia who had been repeatedly exposed to HIV but not infected; they were apparently able to resist the virus. The finding sparked a search—which continues to date—for a vaccine that can teach the body to protect itself against HIV.
I am motivated to work in this field because I am convinced that a safe and effective HIV vaccine, one that is made widely available to those who need it most, will be a game-changer for African women. The reality is that millions of women are simply unable to access or negotiate the use of any of the HIV prevention methods currently offered, which makes it critically important that we expand the range of options available.
Today it is International Women’s Day, which for me is a time to celebrate the contributions women have made to HIV-prevention research. Female researchers, volunteers, advocates and decision-makers around the world dedicate themselves to this cause. It is now more urgent than ever that we sustain support for efforts to develop new tools to prevent HIV infection, specifically ones that address the varied needs of women.
A safe and effective HIV vaccine, used in combination with other prevention strategies, is our best hope of ending the AIDS pandemic. But developing new HIV prevention tools takes resources, people, and time—in the laboratory, in safety tests, and in clinical trials. Sustained investments in HIV vaccine research are therefore critical; so is political support.
African women are playing a key role in the global endeavor to stop HIV/AIDS, and in the years to come will continue to be a central force in making an HIV vaccine a reality. Join us in this effort!
Dr. Gaudensia Nzembi Mutua is a research physician at the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI). She is based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Dec 5th, 2011 10:30 AM UTC
By Edith Jibunoh
Last week we marked World AIDs Day, our annual time for reflection and a recognition that the beginning of the end of AIDS is upon us. As we commemorate the strides that have been made in the battle against the disease since it’s discovery 30 years ago, it seems the perfect opportunity to present our next ONE award finalist, Prévention Information Lutte contre le Sida (PILS) in Mauritius and honour the progress that they have achieved in the battle against this indiscriminate disease.
Mauritius is probably not one of the African countries you would list in counting the likely candidates dealing with an HIV/AIDS problem, especially if your association of the country mirrors mine of beach, sun and palm trees! And yet PILS is an organization that has made great strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS by focusing on the parts of the population most affected by the disease and ensuring that their exclusion from care and prevention did not facilitate an epidemic in the country.
PILS was started by Nicolas Ritter in 1996 two years after he found out he was HIV positive. At the time there was no services in Mauritius for individuals with HIV/AIDS and he had to fly to neighbouring Reunion Island to get treatment. Inspired by what was happening in this neighbouring country, he decided to start PILS at the age of 25. At the time there were only about 140 cases of the disease in the country but without treatment it was pretty much a death sentence. By 2001, the number of known HIV positive cases had doubled to over 280 and Nicolas decided to be the first person to publicly declare his status. With a change of government in 2000, their advocacy efforts intensified and they were able to convince the new government to open the National Aids Centre. As a result of the strong advocacy by PILS, the government agreed to provide universal access to ARV’s.
In this same period, Mauritius had become a hub for heroine trafficking and the drug had hit the streets. In 2003, an explosion of HIV cases among drug users occurred and by 2005, there were over 2,000 cases in the country. In the same year, Mauritius was identified as the country with the highest opiate consumption in Africa (relative to population size) and the second highest in the world after Iran. Today 75% of HIV cases in Mauritius are among needle users.
To address these issues, PILS organized the first conference in Africa on opiates abuse and harm reduction, and has successfully drawn attention to the emerging issue of drug use in Africa and the consequent epidemic problems. Once AIDS is introduced in the drug user community it spreads fast. But thanks to PILS advocacy there has been a reduction of the rate of infection amongst injectable drug users. The organization recognizes that the groups most affected by this disease in Mauritius – commercial sex workers, men having sex with other men, and injectable drug users – could be stuck in a vicious cycle of vulnerability if they not supported.
PILS has lobbied for amendments to the drug act, which criminalized paraphernalia associated with drugs including needles, and prevented interventions such as a needle exchange program that could help address the problem. When the hard fought for HIV/AIDS Bill was introduced in 2006, it contained harmful provisions such as the criminalization of HIV transmission, but PILS was ready to mobilize and through its advocacy efforts and successfully had these provisions removed and replaced with language to protect HIV Positive cases.
PILS has also created economic empowerment programs to support HIV Positive individuals and the support groups that they convene encourage platforms for people to share their fears, hopes and dreams.
The PILS team
PILS has been instrumental in the introduction of important HIV/AIDS in Mauritius and has also ensured the amendment of legislation that could contribute to the worsening of the HIV situation on the small island. While there were many instances in the early days of their advocacy work that PILS had to go into direct opposition with the government’s position on HIV related matters, they now have a great working relationship and are a key partner of government in the fight against the disease.
PILS work has saved lives and that’s what keeps Nicolas and his team dedicated to their work. They know that HIV/AIDS doesn’t have to be a death sentence and more and more, the people of Mauritius know this too.
A big WELL DONE to PILS for all their hard work and we wish you the very best of luck!
Dec 3rd, 2010 7:15 PM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
This post by Dr. Sipho Moyo, ONE’s Africa director, was first published in the South African national paper The Mail & Guardian on 3 December.
The 2010 World Cup was a moment of great pride for all Africans. It provided an opportunity to show the world the incredible progress that has been achieved across the continent and demonstrated the unyielding spirit of optimism that is quintessentially African. With World AIDS Day this week, perhaps we should similarly take stock of the progress and how far we have come in the fight against this deadly disease.
Less than a decade ago, AIDS was moving unchecked through our communities, leaving death and suffering in its path. Fewer than 50,000 Africans were receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment. Now, thanks in part to programs such as the Global Fund, and the strong commitment of our governments, nearly 4 million Africans—enough to fill Soccer City Stadium more than 44 times—are able to access the treatment they need to live longer, more productive lives. Our governments’ collective leadership on HIV/AIDS is strengthening, the stigma toward those living with the disease is declining, and 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have reduced new HIV infections by more than 25 percent. The South African Government’s new policy in particular, which has significantly increased its investments in treatment for AIDS and prevention of HIV, has already begun to show positive results. Specifically it has reduced the numbers of babies born with HIV transmitted from their mothers; increased the numbers of people receiving ARVs treatment and living longer with HIV/AIDS, when in the past it would have been a sure death sentence.
But there is a grave threat to this progress: a global recession that has tightened the budgets of African and donor governments alike. The tremendous gains we’ve made over the last decade in the fight against HIV/AIDS are now in jeopardy, and recent global financial meetings in Canada and New York have shown that even donors who understand the importance of global health investments are seeing aid budgets increasingly squeezed. At least for now, large donor funding increases for AIDS seem to be a distant dream.
So what does this mean for Africans and African leaders? To maintain progress, we must continue to insist on the resources needed to keep our people alive, while at the same time taking a very hard look at how we can do even better with what we have. Indeed, there is much we can do to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of the resources that are allocated towards the prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS. There are three steps we can take.
Firstly, we must improve prevention. The promise of treatment for everyone living with AIDS cannot be fulfilled until we slow substantially the rate of new infections. Funding must be focused on interventions that are proven to be effective and are targeted to those who are most at risk. We must overcome cultural barriers to reaching young people with accurate information about HIV, and we must provide them with access to condoms if they are sexually active.
We now have the tools to virtually eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, so there is no excuse in 2010 other than our own inaction for children being born HIV positive. Ensuring that mothers have access to anti-retroviral drugs during pregnancy and teaching mothers how to minimize the chances of passing the virus on to their newborn can cut the risk of infection almost entirely. We need to seek out HIV-positive women, offer them quality family planning services, and provide education and treatment for those who become pregnant.
For young men living in countries with high rates of HIV, male circumcision by a trained medical provider needs to be widely available – it can reduce by over 60% the risk of a man getting infected from an HIV-positive woman.
Secondly we must improve governance and transparency. Even with all the resources and good intentions, programmes will only be successful if they are well managed and citizens are fully informed and engaged. Primary responsibility lies with our Ministries of Health and of Finance who must work together to prioritize domestic spending for HIV/AIDS; and to report on where the funds are going and what results they are producing. Where external aid is utilized, our leaders at all levels need to get tough on criminals who try to siphon off resources for AIDS treatment, and work in partnership with donors and civil society to ensure that our in-country capacity to track and evaluate funding is as strong as possible. The citizens of donor countries that provide assistance are also entitled to know that we have an aggressive intolerance for corruption of any kind. Equally importantly donors should seek to ensure that national health systems are not undermined, while delivering or implement HIV/AIDS programs on the ground.
Thirdly, we must make the case for Africa. Far from advocating perpetual indefinite donor dependence, but so long as we continue to rely on their assistance to aggressively fight AIDS, it is in our interest to be more vocal about the successes of these funds and how they can be best utilized. Indeed, as resources become increasingly tight, and donors change eligibility and prioritization criteria, it will become ever more important for our leaders, celebrities, and citizens when they travel abroad to represent us, to be unabashed in detailing both how effective investments have been saving lives as well as sharing what works and has not worked in each of our countries. It is up to the leaders to partner with civil society so as to be able to advise donors on such key issues as when integration should be a focus, where clinics are best situated, how cultural practices should influence policy, which local partners are strong. We are our own best advocates, and donors need to hear from us.
On World AIDS Day I hope that we can all make a commitment to fulfilling our responsibilities to help end AIDS in Africa in our lifetime. It will take all of us, working together as one, to make a difference.
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