Wednesday, 30 December 2015 08:51

African First Ladies Commit to an HIV Free Generation

JOHANNESBURG, 5 December 2015 - African First Ladies, in partnership with China, have reaffirmed their commitment to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

The First Ladies, who form the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) also highlighted the importance of paediatric care, strengthening of partnerships and ensuring that AIDS is a strong component in the post-2015 development agenda.

The ladies met on Saturday morning in Johannesburg on the side-lines of the Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

They met under the theme "Africa-China Partnership: Caring for an AIDS-free generation."

Since the establishment in 2002, OAFLA has been advocating for and raised awareness on AIDS, championing many campaigns on eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV, underlining the burden of HIV on women and strengthening networks of people living with HIV.

South Africa's First lady, Tobeka Madiba-Zuma used her address at the meeting to emphasise that the continent requires focused and strategic interventions that focuses on women, adolescent girls, and girls of child-bearing age.

She also called for a reinvigorated campaign against new infections among children.

Thou the continent has come a long way towards achieving an HIV free generation, Madiba-Zuma said societal challenges hinder efforts towards zero infection. "Poverty, gender inequality gender based violence, child marriage hinder our efforts," she said.

According to stats from the UNAIDS, in 2014, an estimated 190 000 children under the age of 15 years were newly infected with HIV, although this reflects a decline of about 47%, the first ladies are of the view that that this number is still high.

Africa is also still home to 90% of the world's 2.6 million children living with HIV.

"These states reveal that HIV and Aids is the leading cause of death in our adolescences. Unless we take swift action to educate our youth to ensure that they protect themselves on both HIV and teenage pregnancy we will find it difficult to ensuring an HIV free generation and jeopardise the progress of our development. "

Madiba Zuma said the continent cannot afford to treat this as business as usual. "We need to look at the underling factors are hinder our women and young girls. We must start from our homes, schools, and in our communities to educate them."

OAFLA President and First lady of Ghana, Lordina Mahama said the organisation will work with China to reach the target of an HIV free generation while eliminating the stigma attached to those infected by the virus.

She added that they will continue to advocate relentlessly on priority areas, including the allocation of adequate resources to improve their national responses to various challenges interlinked to HIV and Aids.

Chinese First lady Peng Liyaun committed to working with the continent to ensure that it realises its dream of zero infections.

Liyaun announced that in 2016, China will invite 30 African children to the annual summer camp for children living with HIV. China will also hold training courses for Africa as well mobilising civil society in China to provide funding for Africa's efforts in the fight against HIV and Aids.

Also speaking at the meeting, South Africa's Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said the efforts by the first ladies give hope that an HIV free generation is possible.

"Our biggest challenge as health ministers is socio-behavioral which those needs strong leadership are beyond science... ."

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