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Review of Reversal of Spread of Diseases in Africa

African heads of state plan to meet this week in Abuja, Nigeria, to review the progress achieved in reversing the spread of infectious diseases// like HIV/Aids, malaria, tuberculosis.

Five years ago the leaders had set a target of increasing health spending to at least 15 per cent of national budgets in order to accelerate a continental response to the pandemic of Aids as well as other diseases.

However progress has been dismal. Only Botswana, for instance, has devoted 15 per cent of national budgets towards health care, emphasising on HIV/Aids programmes.

They were followed by Zimbabwe at 14.5 percent which was mainly due to an innovative employee/employer Aids levy introduced in 2003 that leveraged additional resources. Tanzania and Uganda follows closely behind with 13 per cent and 12 per cent respectively and Kenya trailing at 7 per cent.

The heads of state are only expected to recommit to the unmet Abuja targets as well as an accelerated response to the Aids pandemic. However this was beset with difficulties owing to insufficient resources to increase prevention, treatment and care for the already affected people.

The summit will probably help to endorse a proposal due for discussion at UN General Assembly in the following month for a widespread effort to put 10 million people on antiretrovirals by 2010 with the majority to be probably drawn from Africa.

In Africa the total death toll due to Aids has already crossed 22 million, out of a global total of 25 million. The number of Aids orphans, estimated at 12 million, is expected to reach 18 million by 2008.

The AU expects countries to redouble their efforts to raise internal resources after having miserably failed to keep up to the targets of 2001.

However resources are not the only constraint in Africa as experts opine. In fact since the 2001 targets were set, Africa has had new resource coming from the Global Fund, the World Bank multi-country Aids programme and the US government under the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar).

The International financing for HIV/Aids for Africa has increased from $1.7 billion to over $4.7 billion. Yet accessing the funds has been complicated by several conditions in addition to competing donor priorities not always being aligned to the strategies of specific countries.

The magnitude of the pandemic has also not kept pace with required resources.

In addition competion for international funds from Asia and Eastern Europe, where the number of HIV/Aids is increasing is expected to further pressurize the African governments to mobilise more resources internally.

The exodus of health personnel to the West in search of greener pastures has further undermined Africa's capacity to respond to Aids.

Limited expenditures for the health sector in the budget, in addition to inadequate incentives have only meant that very few countries can replace those migrating or motivate those who remain.

This week's summit is expected tomainly focus on increasing the availability of retroviral treatment to more people as well as on the prevention of Aids mainly targeting the youth. It has now been widely acknowledged that the lack of comprehensive knowledge on HIV/Aids is undermining behaviour change and fuelling the spread of the disease among the youth.


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