Monday, January 17, 2022

EU continues to financially back HIV eradication efforts in SADC region

The Head of Delegation of the EU Mission to Botswana and the Southern African Development Community says that the European Union’s Ôé¼11.6 million (over P110 m) donation to Botswana to fight HIV-linked infant and maternal mortalities underscores their vision that ‘prevention’ is the most efficient way to stop the HIV epidemic.

Gerard McGovern said the multi-million Pula additional grant funding was a result of the EU’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) initiative to address Botswana’s MDG budgetary shortfalls to effectively deliver HIV-related effective exchange of information and best practice in the fight.

Addressing local and international delegates attending the 2012 Botswana 4th International HIV Conference held in Gaborone last week, McGovern said: “Based on this year’s theme: ‘Prevention is the way forward’, the EU remains financially committed to the fight against HIV, with priority being to the poorest and most affected countries, through the Global Fund (GF), its international financial instrument. The EU as GF’s founding member together with the other EU member states, remains the largest donor representing 52 percent of the total contribution. I can confirm that the EU will fully honour its pledge of Ôé¼330 m (over P3 billion) for the 2011 ÔÇô 2013 period, notwithstanding global economic woes.

“To further increase the global resources for the HIV response, enhanced efforts should now be made towards leveraging additional resources and broadening the donor base. The envisaged multi-pronged strategy should bring all private sector and emerging donors on board, and call on them to increase their contributions and help shift from a culture of emergency response to that of long-term sustainability.”

He said not only is there a need for more resources, but absolutely vital to make optional allocation of those available in the continuous efforts to increase efficiency and effectiveness of HIV programmes.

Consequently, EU within the GF instrument, calls for greater efficiency with regards to alignment to national systems in beneficiary countries.

As the Conference provides an information sharing and benchmarking platform, this should re-enforce the EU’s prioritizing the fight against HIV since it constitutes a major challenge and threat to individuals, families and societies as a whole.

SADC has been identified as an HIV hard hit zone, characterized by critical health and development nexus, as the global fight has not been won, in the wake of 30 years of commitment and partnership at unprecedented national, regional and international levels.

“Impressive progress has been made globally leading to nearly 20 percent decline in new HIV infections in the past decade and almost 19 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths from 2004 ÔÇô 2009. Although EU is proud to have contributed to these extraordinary achievements, this is not enough as more has to be done,” he said.

Given the complexities and cross-cutting nature of prevention strategies, (unfortunately with one size not fitting all), the involvement of education, health and social services sectors should be through evidence and rights-based approaches, building on understanding of local contexts. The EU approach, therefore, focuses on key, marginalized, higher risk and hard to reach populations, such as homosexual and commercial sex incumbents, intravenous drug abusers, prisoners, ethnic minorities and migrants rendering them more vulnerable to HIV infections.

The EU promotes gender equality and women empowerment emphasizing on protection against unsafe sex in the contextual framework of combating human trafficking.

McGovern encouraged confidential HIV testing and counseling, prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) programmes, affordable high quality male and female condoms, safe male circumcision and comprehensive education and awareness campaigns as incremental in the fight.

In their addresses, Harvard School of Public Health and Botswana Harvard Partnership Professor Max Essex, UNAIDS Support Network for East and Southern Africa Director Professor Sheila Tlou and Botswana HIV Clinicians Society, (Conveners of the Conference) Chairman Dr. Matshediso Kgamane called on delegates to pay attention to issues associated with HIV prevention.

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