Dr. Fatoumata Nafo-Traore, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Programme of the World Health Organisation
UN Unfolds New Strategy to Stop New HIV Infections
By Patrick Ugeh in Abuja
Malaria deaths in Africa have gone down by one-third in the last 13 years since the year 2000 when Africa’s leaders meeting in Abuja committed to slashing malaria deaths and cases.
This was announced saturday by Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Fatoumata Nafo-Traore, at the ongoing special African Union (AU) Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Abuja.
This came as the United Nations unfolded a new strategy to stop new HIV infections, saying about $ 2.4 billion would be required to attain coverage and treatment by 2015.
On malaria reduction, Nafo-Traore said more than a million lives have been saved from malaria since year 2000, most of them among African children under 5 years of age.
She added at the conference known as Abuja+12 Special Summit, that 44 African nations had recorded over 50 percent reductions in malaria cases over the past decade.
“Few other public health initiatives can boast such a significant achievement,” Nafo-Traore stated. “But we cannot rest on our laurels. African countries continue to face many challenges, both financial and technical. To make rapid progress towards the 2015 malaria targets, we need to hit our enemy hard in its strongholds in sub-Saharan Africa while keeping up the fight elsewhere on the continent.”
She stated that with Africa in the driver’s seat and a massive increase in financial and technical support, progress over the past years had been stunning.
According to her, the Roll Back Malaria partners will keep doing all they can to support the African nations at every step of the way. “The presentations you will hear today will provide guidance that we hope will strengthen your national malaria control efforts.
“You will also hear an important technical update on larval source management, an issue which has been of great interest to many among you,” she told stakeholders from around Africa and the world. She went on: “I know that malaria control is one issue among many that are begging your attention. But addressing it now is key to achieving important health and development targets.
“Malaria control in Africa has revealed itself to be a quick-win strategy for reaching multiple MDGs related to improving maternal and child health and driving down poverty. Each dollar invested in malaria control yields forty dollars to the economy. No other social investment gives a better rate of return.
“This is why the malaria fight should stay on the radar of Africa’s leaders until the job is finished and Africa is free from a preventable and treatable disease that should not take a single life,” she said.
Meanwhile, a new strategy aimed at achieving zero new infections of HIV, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths was yesterday unfolded by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
As an important step towards getting to zero AIDS-related deaths, the body said countries should be encouraged to prioritise immediate efforts to ensure that all people eligible for HIV treatment have access to it.
The report stated that to reach the targeted 80 per cent coverage by 2015 using the new 2013 WHO treatment guidelines and criteria, the world would require additional US$2.2- 2.4 billion on top of the treatment costs estimated in the 2010 guidelines.
“This expenditure will be money well spent as previous analyses have demonstrated that treatment is both cost-effective and potentially cost-saving over time,” the report stated.
It added that Treatment 2015 offers countries and partners both practical and innovative ways of increasing the number of people accessing treatment, which will allow people to live longer and healthier lives and prevent new infections.
Speaking on the benefits of rapidly scaling up antiretroviral therapy, the intervention says scaling up antiretroviral therapy preserves and strengthens the health and well being of the adolescents and working age adults.
“Investing in HIV treatment generates economic returns up to three times the investment, increasing productivity, preventing children from becoming orphaned and deferred the health care costs associated with advanced HIV related illnesses,” the report said.
In a joint statement in Abuja, the WHO, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund), the United States Global AIDS Coordinator and the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) stressed the need to be united in the HIV/AIDS fight from now on.
“For the first time since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, we have an historic opportunity to lay the groundwork to achieve zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths,” the partners said. “One of the clearest lessons in global health is that victory can only be achieved through active partnership.
“For us to win, it is essential that we move together to support countries to achieve their goals. Getting to zero requires commitment, innovation, sound science, and community-centered strategies. A determination to embrace and respect human rights is critical if we are to reach those most vulnerable to HIV infection.”
Noting that they now had the tools to achieve universal access to HIV testing and treatment, they emphasised the need to unite around the principle that every person who needs HIV treatment should receive it.
“By strategically focusing HIV treatment and other proven prevention tools on the key geographic settings and populations where rates of transmission and unmet need for HIV services are high, we can significantly bend downward the rate of new infections.
“Treatment 2015 provides a results-driven framework to expedite and greatly expand coverage. With less than 1000 days before the end of 2015, much work remains to be done. The WHO’s new 2013 guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs, ARDs, for treating and preventing HIV infection recommend a CD4 threshold of 500 for initiation of HIV treatment,” the partners said. The statement on the new strategy was signed by Margaret Chan, Director General World Health Organization (WHO), Mark Dybul, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Eric Goosby, Ambassador, United States Global AIDS Coordinator, Michel Sidibe, Executive Director, UNAIDS.
“The rapidly evolving evidence base for HIV testing and HIV treatment raise a number of technical issues,” they said. “Yet the most important factor of all is the commitment we each bring to the AIDS response. To end the AIDS epidemic, we must work together. Only through partnership, beginning with the leadership of the countries burdened by HIV and supported by the collective determination of all stakeholders, can reach our common goal.”
With approximately 1000 days left to reach the global target of 15 million people with anti-retrovial therapy by 2015, the report reveals that in some developing countries, the foundations for ending the AIDS epidemic are being established by scaling up HIV treatment combined with expanding access to other essential programmatic activities.
It added that at the end of 2012, 9.7 million people accessed antiretroviral therapy in resource limited setting.
The Treatment 2015 advocates three fundamental pillars which include Demand, Invest and Deliver ; Demand which involves creating demand for HIV treatment, led by people living with HIV and those affected by HIV, which should be sustained by civil society and the international community.
The Treatment 2015 looks at new ways of handling HIV testing and treatment rather than expecting people to adapt themselves to complicated service systems.