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African first ladies launch organization to fight HIV/AIDS – UN agency

African first ladies launch organization to fight HIV/AIDS – UN agency

The wives of the leaders of 18 African countries are slated to gather in Geneva beginning tomorrow to establish the African First Ladies Organization Against HIV/AIDS, the lead United Nations agency fighting the disease announced today.

Although the gathering in Geneva represents the official launch of the Organization, its members have met informally on at least nine occasions in 2001 and 2002, according to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). These contacts culminated in a meeting convened during the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children in May, when the formation of an organization was actively discussed.

UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot said it was a great step forward to see the first ladies so committed to fighting the epidemic on the worst-hit continent. “Through their leadership I am certain the First Ladies will inspire communities, families and individuals to play a more active role in turning back the epidemic,” he said.

According to UNAIDS, of the more than 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, an estimated 18 million are women. In sub-Saharan Africa, women account for 55 per cent of the adults infected with HIV.

The Geneva meeting is being facilitated by UNAIDS along with the International AIDS Trust, which was established to create strategic opportunities for galvanizing leadership, mobilizing resources, and promoting effective interventions in the global battle against the epidemic.