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Advocates at Kenya Conference Explore New Strategies To Combat HIV/AIDS in Africa

Nearly 30 years after the emergence of HIV/AIDS, the global health community must develop new strategies to curb the spread of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa, some experts said Tuesday ahead of the Global Citizens Summit for Social Mobilization to End AIDS in Nairobi, Kenya, AFP/Google.com reports. The advocates also stressed the need for innovative approaches to health financing as international donors shift their attention toward other issues and as the ongoing economic downturn threatens fundraising prospects. The conference, which opens Wednesday, includes participants from 32 countries, primarily in Africa.

According to Wasai Jacob Nanjakululu of Oxfam, about 90% of HIV-positive people are unaware of their status and 70% of people in need of treatment are not accessing medical care. Leonard Okello, an HIV/AIDS specialist with ActionAid International, added that the global health community is “far from winning the struggle against” HIV/AIDS. Okello said the conference will examine the shortcomings of earlier HIV/AIDS policies and explore new methods to address the disease. “There are a lot of resources in HIV/AIDS programs but not much of that reaches the community,” Okello said, asking, “What is it that we should radically change?” (AFP/Google.com, 5/26). According to IRIN/PlusNews, conference participants also plan to discuss “people-centered” approaches to combating HIV/AIDS.

ActionAid Report Calls For Improvements in Basic Health Care To Address HIV/AIDS

In related news, ActionAid ahead of the Nairobi conference released a report (pdf) calling for countries to scale up local health care capacity in order to effectively address HIV/AIDS. According to the report, titled “Primary Concern: Why Primary Health Care is Key to Tackling HIV and AIDS,” equipping local health centers with more resources will help tackle HIV/AIDS. Advocates at the report’s launch in Nairobi also called for governments to expand access to primary health care by establishing more clinics and improving existing centers.

Linda Mafu, Africa regional coordinator for the World AIDS Campaign, said, “Health centers need to be spread out and properly equipped, so they have the capacity to deal not only with HIV, but with other diseases that affect the population.” Mafu added that this could help ease transportation burdens and delays from long waits to visit health centers. Okello added that health officials should train primary health care workers on “the skills to integrate HIV management into their other work.”

Although an efficient public health sector could provide HIV/AIDS services, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations might need to support health systems for the foreseeable future, the report said. According to the report, many populations such as commercial sex workers choose to “opt out of the public health system,” and delays in implementing HIV programs and strengthening health systems could “lead to higher numbers of AIDS-related deaths” (IRIN/PlusNews, 5/27).

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