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Massive expansion of Anti-AIDS programme in Southern Africa

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies revealed their plan to expand the anti-AIDS programme to help 50 million people in Southern Africa to fight the dreaded disease. //

The Geneva-based organization has appealed for US$300-million to expand its anti-AIDS drive. "With just a fraction of more than 12 million HIV-positive people in southern Africa currently accessing prevention, care and treatment services, the time for idly standing by and watching the pandemic exact its deadly toll, is over, " said Dr. Mukesh Kapila, Federation's new Special Representative for HIV and AIDS.

"We cannot stand by anymore while the scourge of HIV/AIDS continues to extract its daily, deadly toll across this land. We know what must be done, and we are growing impatient to be allowed to do more, and do it better," said Kapila.

Francoise Le Goff, the federation's chief representative in the region, said, "The five-year project will cover Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

"That is 50-million people we plan to reach. We will also provide services to more than 250 000 persons living with HIV/AIDS and 460 000 children that have been orphaned or made vulnerable by the disease," she said. Le Goff said, "It is important that aid agencies and national governments work together to avoid duplication and move the overall response to this epidemic to a larger scale".

Kapila said, "Western countries, which have previously promised money to help combat the disease, have sometimes failed to stump up the cash and needed to ‘walk the talk’. "Lots of pledges have been made ... but we are still waiting to see the effect on the ground," he said.

Stephen Lewis, the UN's special envoy for HIV and AIDS in Africa, agrees with him. He blamed the richest nations in the world for failing in keeping the promise to increase the funds. The G8 nations at a s ummit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in July 2005 promised to offer universal access to treatment for AIDS patients in Africa till 2010.

"We might have the human resources to quadruple our current programmes to reach 50 million people with prevention messages; over 460,000 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) with support; and 250,000 infected people with home-based care, but our plan can only materialise if our appeal is met," said Kapila.

Fran?oise Le Goff, said, "This initiative is just one example of what the Federation can achieve with sufficient support over the next five years. "Expansion of our efforts comes at a time when most governments [in the region] are yet to define targets for their own anti-AIDS campaigns, even more than 25 years into the pandemic," she said.

"Today is a historic moment for our organization, being the first time ever that we are committing so many resources to tackling the long term development problem that is AIDS," Goff noted.

"This scaling-up of the Federation's activities could help alleviate the bottle-neck created by people desperately seeking care at public health facilities already buckling under the pressure. More importantly, this appeal will help expand these life-prolonging interventions beyond urban centres to the all too often overlooked rural communities," Mandisa Kalako-Williams, president of the South Africa Red Cross Society, commented.

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