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Kagame urges global leaders to learn from delayed response to HIV/AIDS in Africa

By IGIHE
On 9 June 2021 at 08:16

President Paul Kagame has urged the world to learn from past mistakes whereby delayed response to HIV/AIDS on the African continent left loopholes for the disease to spread until the situation worsened yet it was treatable.

Kagame made the call on Tuesday 8th June 2021 during the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS.

The meeting taking place from 8th to 10th June 2021, was organized to undertake a comprehensive review of the progress on the commitments made in the 2016 Political Declaration towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, and how the response, in its social, economic and political dimensions, continues to contribute to progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the global health goal.

The high-level meeting is expected to provide recommendations to guide and monitor the HIV/AIDS response beyond 2021, including new concrete commitments to accelerate action to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as well as to promote the renewed commitment and engagement of leaders, countries, communities and partners to accelerate and implement a comprehensive universal and integrated response to HIV/AIDS.

As he delivered remarks, Kagame explained Rwanda’s efforts towards defeating HIV/AIDS where the country has achieved nearly all of the 90-90-90 targets indicating that 90% of all people living with HIV should know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection receive sustained antiretroviral therapy while 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

The President also revealed that HIV prevalence rate in Rwanda has been stable at 3 percent since 2005 noting that more efforts are still needed.

“But it is not yet time to celebrate. There is still 95 to be achieved, and then 100. That is the reason why a new Political Declaration is needed, to end the HIV pandemic by 2030,” he said.

Kagame stressed HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 are both pandemics that should leave common lessons.

“HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 are both pandemics. One is 40 years old, while the other has been with us for only a year-and-a-half. But there are common lessons and shortcomings to address. First, the quality and speed of response is still mostly determined by wealth and poverty. Waiting to respond to HIV in Africa was a mistake, because the virus was spreading, even though it was treatable,” he stated.

“Some even believed that Africans would not be able take their medicine on time. A decade was lost, and many lives as well. The turning point in the fight against HIV in Africa was the consensus to invest heavily in national health systems, through key programs such as PEPFAR, the Global Fund, and others,” added Kagame.

He revealed that the health systems that Africa has depended on to fight the COVID-19 pandemic were largely built with HIV funding.

“For example, Rwanda’s National Reference Laboratory has performed thousands of Covid tests per day during the pandemic. And it was originally built as an HIV lab. Even within the framework of combatting a specific pandemic, we can work together as partners to disburse funds in a flexible manner, with the goal of continuing to strengthen health systems,” he noted.

Kagame highlighted that established health systems to defeat particular pandemic might be used to contain emerging crisis requiring prompt interventions to save people’s lives.

He pointed out an example where ‘a maternity wing that treats HIV-positive mothers, may also save the life of a mother with malaria’.

“We must also seize this moment to increase scientific research collaboration with Africa, and to invest in drug and vaccine manufacturing capacity on our continent,” stressed Kagame.

UNAIDS 2021 epidemiological estimates shows that 37.6 million people globally were living with HIV in 2020 including 1.5 million people infected in 2020 while 690, 000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in the same year.

President Paul Kagame has urged the world to learn from past mistakes whereby delayed response to HIV/AIDS on the African continent provided loopholes for the disease to spread until the situation worsened yet it was treatable.

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