EU Action Against AIDS (22/04/2010)

European Union Delegations in Southern Africa met in Windhoek and renewed commitment to helping host countries fight HIV/SIDA

The network of European Union (EU) Delegations in Southern Africa, labelled "Action Against AIDS", which consists of members from 10 EU Delegations, met in Windhoek from 21-22 April 2010 for their 5th Annual Meeting to share experience and best practice, acquaint themselves with new research findings, (incl. of country specific drivers of HIV/AIDS), and develop a joint plan of action for the year to come.  Assisted by a regional helpdesk based in Pretoria, they were also joined by colleagues from ECHO, the European Humanitarian Network.  Sub Saharan Africa remains the region most heavily affected by HIV and AIDS in the world with 67 per cent of all new inffections worldwide in 2008, even though globally HIV incidence appears to be stabilising.  Within the continent, Southern Africa is the region with the highest prevalence and new infections rates. 

Participants at the seminarParticipants at the seminar

"The importance of addressing the epidemic in our aid efforts in this region which is the most infected and affected globally cannot be underestimated as AIDS changes the course of development, "says Elisabeth Pape, the Head of the EU Delegation to Namibia, who took over the chairmanship from Malawi for the coming year. Guest speakers at the seminar included representatives of the Embassy of the United States (US) of America in Namibia and UNAIDS. US ambassador, Denise Mathieu, gave an overview of the PEPFAR under the Obama administration, changes and priorities for the region. Representatives from the Global Fund, as well as a number of participants, were prevented to attend as their flights from Europe to Windhoek were cancelled due to the volcanic ash cloud. The group was also addressed by Namibia's Minister for Health and Social Services, Hon. Dr. Richard Kamwi, during dinner.

Hon. Kamwi pointed out that the fight against HIV/AIDS is shared by all and to move forward, better and smarter partnerships were necessary.  "We have to hold each other accountable.  Only, and only then, we can win the fight against HIV/AIDS." He added:  "Prevention is not an easy thing to do for HIV/AIDS, in the absence of an effective vaccine.  We will need to rely heavily, for many years to come, in a combination of strategies and approaches to reach our targets. We will have to rely hardly on multidisciplinary and multisectoral collaboration for prevention strategies and approaches to work."

Tallying well with the discussions in the afternoon on prevention, Kamwi reported on Namibia's progress on prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) which ensured that today almost all children born by HIV/AIDS infected mothers, are saved from the virus.

The EU Action Against AIDS Group which comprises of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe has since its creation in 2006 worked to increase attention to the pandemic in Southern Africa, in the Commission's Headquarters as well as among other stakeholders.  In this light,

1. it recognises the fight against HIV/AIDS as an imperative for the stability and prosperity for the Southern African region in the short, medium and long term. The Group commits itself to placing the fight against HIV/AIDS, specifically prevention (for example mother-to-child transmission), on the agenda of its interactions with host governments as well as all other interlocutors in the region. It will seek to develop closer ties with regional programmes and the African Union.

2.  It undertakes to "mainstream" HIV/AIDS aspects in all EU funded programmes in the region and take up the issue in both political and policy dialogue with its partner Governments in the region.

3.  It undertakes to pay more attention to macroeconomic and fiscal impact of HIV/AIDS, the link with food security and nutrition, as well as the role of men in spreading the disease, while targeting support to women and OVC (orphans and vulnerable children).