The United Nations agency that fights HIV/AIDS today pledged to strengthen its cooperation with some 50 French-speaking countries to combat the deadly disease that has infected more than 4 million people in the group, just two weeks after undertaking a similar effort with Portuguese-speaking States.
“I see UNAIDS’ presence here as the start of a new era of deeper collaboration with French-speaking countries,” the agency’s Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, told the closing session of the 5th Francophone conference on HIV/AIDS in Casablanca, Morocco. Many of the countries are in Africa and the group overall is home to more than 800 million people.
“In partnership with Francophone countries my dream can become a reality: we can stop all new HIV infections,” he said.
It was the first Francophone HIV conference in which UNAIDS participated significantly. “I am impressed by the leadership Francophone countries have shown,” Mr Sidibé said. “Here in Casablanca we have heard about how French-speaking countries are making important contributions to the AIDS response.”
UNAIDS estimates that 4.1 million people are living with HIV in Francophone countries, with 340,000 new infections in 2008. Prevalence rates vary widely: for example in Algeria the rate is 0.1 per cent while in the Central African Republic (CAR) it is 6.3 per cent.
The next Francophone Conference on HIV/AIDS will take place in Geneva in 2012.
In March, Mr. Sidibé signed an agreement in Lisbon with Domingos Simões Pereira, Executive Secretary of the eight-member Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) that is home to an estimated 223 million people.
“South-South cooperation among Portuguese-speaking nations can help achieve universal access to HIV prevention treatment, care and support and eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” Mr. Sidibé said then.
Under the agreement, civil society groups and networks that assist people living with HIV will receive technical, political and financial support and channels will be established so that groups operating in different countries can share their experiences and knowledge.