Scaling up action against HIV/AIDS: meeting of UN agencies and Southern African ministers in ZambiaParis, February 27 - The Committee of the Cosponsoring Organizations (CCO) of UNAIDS, which brings together the heads of the nine* United Nations agencies participating in the joint HIV/AIDS programme, will hold its annual meeting in Africa for the first time, March 3 to 5. Some 20** ministers of health, education, and finance from the region, one of the parts of the world worst hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, will attend the meeting, in Livingstone (Zambia). It will be chaired by Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO which is currently chairing UNAIDS.
According to UNAIDS, 5 million people in 2003 joined the ranks of the 60 million who have been affected by HIV/AIDS since the start of the pandemic. Twenty million are believed to have been killed by the virus, which continues to infect 13,500 new persons every day. Six thousand of the new daily infections hit people aged 15 to 24. Southern Africa is particularly badly hit, with a rate of infection of as many as 40% in some countries. The pandemic has had a disastrous impact on the region, notably on education as it ravaged the ranks of teachers, for example.
In the absence of a cure or vaccine for the disease, HIV/AIDS prevention education is extremely important. It is UNESCO’s priority and a thematic focus of UNAIDS during UNESCO’s tenure as chair of the Committee of the Cosponsoring Organizations from July 2003 to July 2004. Mr Matsuura proposed holding the CCO meeting in sub-Saharan Africa to “highlight the region’s plight”, as he said at a meeting of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB)*** in Geneva last June, and to “focus attention on the country level, where the need for capacity-building and effective national coordination is crucial.”
The CCO meeting, which will be opened by the President of Zambia, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, will address focus on four distinct aspects of the pandemic: Access to treatment; prevention education; impact on human capacity and capacity building; orphans and vulnerable children dealing with the impact of HIV/AIDS.
During the morning session of Thursday, March 4, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Peter Piot, will speak about “the challenges in Southern Africa” and the Director-General of UNESCO will address the issue of “HIV prevention education”. Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of UNDP, for his part, will discuss “the AIDS impact on human resources and challenges to maintaining human capacity” and the Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, Joy Phumaphi, will deliver an address on “accelerating access to treatment”. The Executive Director of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy, will then speak of “Orphans and vulnerable children dealing with the impact of HIV/AIDS in families and communities”.
A press conference is scheduled for the afternoon of March 4, with the Director-General of UNESCO, Brian Chituwo, Minister of Health of Zambia and Chair of UNAIDS’ Programme Coordinating Board , and Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
* UNAIDS’ members are: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Health Organization (WHO),World Bank
** Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
*** UNAIDS is guided by a Programme Coordinating Board with representatives of 22 governments from all geographic regions, the UNAIDS Cosponsors, and five representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including associations of people living with HIV/AIDS.