HIV :: AIDS groups lobby health summit in Africa

As a week-long meeting of health ministers organised by the African U nion (AU) got underway in Johannesburg on Monday, AIDS activists expressed concern that commitments on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, reached at several meetings last year, were missing from the agenda.

Conference delegates are spending this week considering a draft health strategy for the next eight years, to produce a roadmap for strengthening Africa’s weak health systems and helping the continent achieve health-related United Nations Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

But according to a coalition of 53 AIDS organisations and civil society groups, the draft plan fails to include a number of targets relating to the goal of universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and care agreed to by African governments at an AU summit on AIDS, TB and malaria in Abuja, Nigeria, in May 2006.

“We believe it would be a waste of energy to start with new commitments when, in Abuja last year, they all acceded to a document that was well thought out and detailed,” Olayide Akanni of Journalists Against AIDS, a Nigerian organisation that is part of the coalition, told journalists on Tuesday. “The health strategy we have before us now contains no timelines, there’s no monitoring and evaluation plan, there’s nothing to hold them to it.”

A petition listing the coalition’s concerns called for the Abuja document to be used to guide the discussions in Johannesburg, and demanded that African governments “translate their commitments to action”. Akanni said little progress towards the Abuja targets, which include 80 percent coverage of antiretroviral treatment (ART) by 2010, had so far been made. Most countries on the continent currently have less than 30 percent ART coverage.

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