Plea to governments over growing Aids pandemic

Governments across the world must tackle the HIV/Aids pandemic which has now reached a new high of more than 40 million people with the disease, charities demanded today as they marked World Aids Day.

Governments across the world must tackle the HIV/Aids pandemic which has now reached a new high of more than 40 million people with the disease, charities demanded today as they marked World Aids Day.

A coalition of non-governmental agencies – Dochas – were joined by Overseas Development Minister Conor Lenihan, Dublin Mayor Catherine Byrne and the Dublin Aids Alliance to call on international community to deliver on its promise to stop Aids.

Dochas’ HIV/Aids working group chairwoman Ruth Johnston also said the Irish public must put pressure on world leaders to honour commitments, such as the G8’s pledge to provide treatment to all who need it by 2010.

“World Aids Day is traditionally a day to remember those who are affected by HIV, those who have lost their lives to the virus and to commit to halting the spread of HIV globally.

“On December 1, the Irish Government and non-governmental sector are uniting to urge the international community and Irish public to join a global effort to stop Aids and to ‘Keep the Promise’.

“All citizens can play their part in stemming the spread of the disease and by holding global leaders accountable for their promises and commitments and to take the action necessary to deliver on them,” she said.

Overseas Development Minister Conor Lenihan, who addressed the meeting, said Aids was robbing Africa of its human capital.

“We have an obligation – moral, practical, tangible and self-interested almost – to stop the spread of Aids,” he said.

“If we do not deal with Aids in Africa it will make a mockery of efforts to bring sub-Saharan countries out of poverty.”

Mr Lenihan pledged the Government’s commitment to tackling Aids would not stop at the doubling of the Aids budget from €50m in 2005 to €100m next year.

To mark World Aids Day he announced funding of €18m for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the International Microbicides Partnership over the next three years, in a bid to aid prevention and cut transmission rates.

At the meeting, the minister said 20% of funds for fighting Aids would be dedicated to helping orphans, and said it was unacceptable not to address gender empowerment as 70% of new infections were women.

The charities offered hope the pandemic could be reversed, as director of Bidii – a local NGO in Kenya which is partnered by Christian Aid – Samuael Mutisya explained how community training and advice centres had reduced infection rates.

“HIV/Aids is seen as the biggest challenge of our day – as we’ve heard, the figures given are frightening,” he said.

Mr Mutisya said Aids spread as a result of poverty and cultural practices, but programmes such as diverting sex workers into small businesses and trades had a positive effect.

Ann Nolan, of Dublin Aids Alliance, said the HIV/Aids issue could not be ignored in Ireland either as the number of infected migrants and complacency amongst young people meant it was still a significant problem in the state.

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