Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé (right) with Sheila Tlou of Botswana
18 February 2010 – With progress uneven towards meeting this year’s goal of universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, the United Nations today called on countries and regional bodies to convene review meetings to identify obstacles and plan better strategies.
“Universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is about achieving equity,” UN Joint Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Michel Sidibé said on an official visit to Botswana, noting that some countries are exceeding some of their targets but not reaching others in the programme launched in 2006.
“This is a groundbreaking global movement that is saving millions of lives. However progress has been uneven so now we need to take stock of what’s working and what is not and to link future national progress in AIDS to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he added, referring to the targets set by the 2000 UN summit to slash a host of social ills, including HIV/AIDS, all by 2015.
In 2006, UN member states signed a political declaration to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, with countries affirming their commitments by setting ambitious national targets.
UNAIDS urged countries to undertake an open and inclusive consultations, bringing together governments, development partners, civil society, networks of people living with HIV and community groups to review progress in reaching country targets.
It will help convene these reviews, which will use data collected this year in country progress reports to identify barriers and strategies to meet their targets this year and beyond, and set up an international advisory team to analyze them and make recommendations on how to redouble progress towards universal access.
Mr. Sidibé is on a visit to Southern Africa, which began with a trip to Swaziland, the country with the highest rate of HIV prevalence in the world with more than one in every four people infected.
UNAIDS has praised Botswana for progress towards achieving universal access targets. Despite having one of the highest prevalence rates in the world, it has been able to provide antiretroviral treatment to more than 80 per cent of people in need. It has also made significant strides in preventing mother to child transmission of HIV, achieving over 93 per cent coverage in 2009. Botswana was one of the first countries in Africa to adopt universal access targets.