By Sadiya Hamza
United Nations – President Roch Kaboré of Burkina Faso, says it is unfair that Africa, which borne the greatest burden of the HIV and AIDS, had to import antiretroviral medications at high costs.
He spoke at a panel discussion on the theme: “Financing the end of AIDS: the window of opportunity”, on Wednesday in New York, during the three-day high-level meeting on ending AIDS.
Kaboré, who co-chaired the discussion, also side the First Lady of Panama, Lorena de Varela, called for initiatives to improve access to antiretroviral treatment in Africa to reach key populations.
He said there is the need to increase and focus resources in the next five years to put an end to AIDS as soon as possible.
“A better approach is needed to put an end to AIDS as a threat to public health, leaving no one behind.
“There must also be social fairness and justice,’’he said.
He also said that there is the need to ensure that the fight against the virus remained high on the international agenda.
Also speaking, de Varela recalled that, over recent decades, millions of people had died prematurely of AIDS.
“We now have what we need to confront the epidemic but the world’s poorest people still suffered disproportionately from HIV and AIDS.
“Countries must mobilise resources to give priority to the continued fight against AIDS, and countries that did not have the necessary resources should be supported,” she said.
In his contribution, Mr Peter Boehm, Deputy Minister for International Development of Canada, said more than 50 per cent of those living with HIV still lacked access to treatment.
“This is simply not acceptable,” he said, stressing the need to reach vulnerable populations.
Empowerment and gender equality, he said, are critical, while also acknowledging the importance of access to education.
Aboriginal populations, he added, remained underserved and should be at the table in discussions on ending HIV.
He said that pooling resources under country-driven models used by the Global Fund, created the best returns.
The replenishment of the Global Fund for 2017 to 2019, he said, is critical to ensuring that the necessary funds were in place for the critical next five years.
Stressing the need to better engage the private sector, he said: “we need to ensure that everyone delivers on their promises”.
Speaking during the discussion, Mr Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor and Director, Earth Institute, Columbia University, U.S said over a decade ago, countries had begun investing in it and People had begun to get treatment.
“We made great progress, but then it stopped,” he said, recalling that the global financial crisis had led to a decision to level off funding.
The money that was needed was only about five to 10 billion dollars a year, which was “small change” to make the world different.
“The technical side has spoken the truth” and shown that the fight against HIV could work.
“Funding to end the disease is readily available and this is not a puzzle, it’s a choice,” Sachs said.
In the ensuing discussion, a number of speakers underscored the need to ensure that global efforts to combat the virus that would ensure that the work of the Global Fund, were sufficiently funded. (NAN)