Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Department of Foreign Affairs
Recent data from the UNAIDS World Report for 2008 demonstrates that the global HIV prevalence in most southern African countries is either approaching, or has reached, a plateau and that death rates are declining. More than 4 million people are now on effective anti-retroviral treatment. This is an enormous achievement in a relatively short period of time and Ireland has played an important role in this progress. The UNAIDS Report points to a six-fold increase in funding available for HIV and AIDS in this decade so far, and describes a remarkable boost in delivery of important HIV and AIDS services and activities at global, regional and country levels. There is particular emphasis on reaching those countries in Africa which are most affected.
Outstanding features of the increase in resources mobilised by the international community include the presence of private philanthropic donors and the unprecedented number of civil society groups that have become active in HIV and AIDS work. These groups have joined hands with their government counterparts and with international donors to more effectively tackle HIV and AIDS through partnership.
Ireland has emphasised the fight against HIV and AIDS as fundamental to poverty and vulnerability reduction and is working with other donors, international bodies, national governments and civil society. Ireland spends over €100 million annually on HIV and other diseases of poverty and our assistance is targeted at those countries most affected by the pandemic, including Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Uganda. Success in a number of African countries offers hope that, with international support, it will be possible to get ahead of this infection. In Mozambique, for example, over 78,000 people are now on HIV treatment, up from less than 2,000 people at the end of 2002. In Zimbabwe, despite the well recognised governance difficulties, HIV prevalence in pregnant women attending antenatal clinics has declined significantly in recent years, from 26% in 2002 to 18% in 2006 and recent reports indicate a further 5% decline. Similar slowdown is evident in Kenya and Uganda.
These gains represent major steps to overcome AIDS. However deaths from the final stages of AIDS remain a major concern and the disease continues to spread. The international community's response needs to be sustained and Ireland will continue to play a significant role both globally and at country level.