WHT IS THE AIDS EPIDEMIC AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
‘Human immunodeficiency virus’ (HIV), and the ‘acquired immunodeficiency syndrome’ (AIDS) that it causes have had a devastating effect on the African continent. It is estimated that roughly 35 million people in Africa have lived with AIDS, and the epidemic has claimed roughly 15 million lives.
HIV/AIDS prevents the human body from responding correctly to diseases – making even minor diseases potentially deadly. It is preventable; however once one is infected, it is very difficult to treat, and massively reduces life expectancy.
WHAT IS THE AFRICAN UNION DOING ABOUT IT?
There have been several African Union (AU) proposals to tackle the AIDS crisis:
The Abuja Declaration (2001);
African leaders promised to commit 15% of their national budgets to healthcare; in reality, 1/3rd of African countries devoted at least 10% of their budget
Resulted in the establishment of ‘AIDS Watch Africa’ – tasked specifically with leading ‘advocacy, accountability and resource mobilization efforts’ against AIDS
The African Common Position (2006); called for increased access to medicine and healthcare basics, and increasing the percentage of Africa’s health care workforce to 5%
Johannesburg Conference (2007); focused on developing the systems required to effectively carry out the response to AIDS
Roadmap on Shared Responsibility and Global Solidarity (2012); presented practical, Africa-centric solutions to AIDS – calling for
– diversified financing
– access to essential medicine
– enhanced health governance
Part of the AU’s mission has involved rallying external support; the UN has contributed; through the ‘Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’ and through the World Health Organisation
HOW SUCCESSFUL HAS IT BEEN?
Of course, much still needs to be done before the AIDS epidemic can be ended. However, the AU has made some tangible steps towards this goal.
According to a 2013 UNAIDS report, between 2005 and 2011 AIDS related deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa fell by 33%, and between 2001 and 2011 the number of new AIDS infections in Sub-Saharan Africa fell by 25%.
Of course, not all of this can be attributed to the AU, however, AU programmes have doubtless had some impact on the continental and international response.