Despite the progress that has been made in the AIDS response in Africa, many challenges remain that prevent people from accessing the HIV prevention and treatment services they need, a top United Nations official said during a visit to Senegal.
Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), noted that in 2008, about 45 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV in Africa were receiving antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmission to their children, up from 35 per cent the previous year.
“Tens of thousands of new HIV infections have been prevented as a result of prevention programmes and the efforts of African governments, civil society and youth,” he stated, while adding that in spite of this progress, access to treatment and services needs to be improved.
Mr. Sidibé made his comments in Dakar, where he arrived earlier this week to take part in the agency’s Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Management Meeting, with the aim of leveraging HIV for broader health and development outcomes in Africa.
While in Senegal, he also met with top officials to discuss the country’s progress on universal access. Meeting with President Abdoulaye Wade on Monday, Mr Sidibé thanked the leader for taking the initiative to include an item on eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Africa on the agenda of the African Union (AU) summit, scheduled to be held in Kampala, Uganda, in July.
HIV has been the major cause of child and infant mortality in major parts of Africa, with about 390,000 children under 15 newly infected with HIV in 2008 alone, the Executive Director noted.
Mr Sidibé also thanked Mr. Wade for the progress made by Senegal in the fight against HIV, particularly in the eradication of the transmission of the virus from mother to unborn child.
In addition, he met the Prime Minister of Senegal, Souleymane Ndéné Ndiaye, who reaffirmed the country’s commitment to total eradication of mother-to-child transmission.