Visiting Khayelitsha, Executive Director announces universal access as top priority for UNAIDS

10 February 2009 | Uncategorized

This morning the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Mr Michel Sidibé gave his first major global statement at a public meeting in Khayelitsha, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town in South Africa which has a population of approximately half a million people.

Building on the commitment countries have made to reach universal access by 2010, Mr Sidibé set out his strategy for the future direction of UNAIDS and highlighted the need to invigorate global momentum, action and commitment towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Like other regions of the world southern Africa is feeling the effects of the global economic crisis. Mr Sidibé stressed the need for follow through on domestic and international investments and commitments to meet 2010 country targets.

“We cannot let the economic crisis paralyze us,” said Mr Sidibé. “Stimulus packages and economic adjustments should be made with a human face in mind. A mother should not have to choose between continuing AIDS treatment and feeding her children. We cannot let down the 4 million people on treatment and millions more in need today.”

Members of local AIDS organizations, community organizations, civil society, as well as diplomatic and government officials were among the guests and the South African Minister of Health Ms Barbara Hogan also addressed the public meeting.

A new report released by UNAIDS today, “What countries need: Investments needed for 2010 targets”, calls for investment to ensure countries reach the ambitious universal access targets that they have set for 2010. To reach these, an estimated investment of US$ 25 billion will be required in 2010 which is US$ 11.3 billion more than is available today.

“It will not be easy to close this gap but it is achievable and absolutely necessary if we are to accelerate the pace of the response to the AIDS epidemic,” said Michel Sidibé. “Together we will help save lives—by putting more people on treatment, protecting babies and young people from getting infected, and ensuring that a whole generation of children will graduate from school.”

The public meeting took place at the Ubuntu Clinic which treats tuberculosis (TB) and HIV. With a TB/HIV co-infection rate of around 70 % in Khayelitsha, this clinic allows patients to register for both TB and antiretroviral treatments. Given that TB accounts for an estimated 13% of AIDS deaths worldwide, it’s vital to ensure that people living with HIV have access to TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The Ubuntu Clinic’s model of “service integration” has since spread to other clinics across the township. The Ubuntu Clinic ran the first programme on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission in South Africa and has provided antiretroviral treatment to approximately 20,000 people.

This afternoon Mr Sidibé flies to Johannesburg where he will hold a series of meetings with civil society and Foundation representatives as well as meet United Nations staff. This is the first official country visit Mr Sidibe has undertaken in his new role as Executive Director of UNAIDS.

Resources:

More information can be found on the UNAIDS website or through the links below:

Read “Letter to partners”

UNAIDS Executive Director

South Africa