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General News of Monday, 13 June 2016

Source: Myjoyonline.com

First Lady speaks at OAFLA-UNAIDS event

President of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) and First Lady of Ghana, Mrs Lordina Dramani Mahama has emphasized the need for a good data to design effective and friendly HIV services for adolescents.

According to her, this will help raise awareness and mobilise resources in support of country programmes that focus on adolescent reproductive needs.

Mrs Lordina Mahama was speaking at a High-Level Side Event convened by OAFLA at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Ending HIV and AIDS by 2030 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The OAFLA president stated that it was against this background that, OAFLA had placed importance on adolescents, in its current strategic plan, 2014 – 2018.

“To advocate for the adoption, of policies, that promote services for adolescents, to raise awareness, and mobilise resources in support of country programmes, that focus on adolescent reproductive health needs is the way to go”, she noted.

The event convened with the support from UNAIDS, GAVI and PEPFAR was under the theme, “Breaking the Silos: Empowered Adolescent Girls at the Centre of the Response”.

She said the theme was very appropriate and timely as it highlights the urgency, of mainstreaming, the empowerment of adolescent girls, across the spectrum of the HIV response.

The First Lady said the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), have provided a clear framework, for focusing on adolescent girls across sectors especially in Education, health, gender equality, reducing inequalities and partnership, among others.

“Furthermore, our Fast Track mode, for the AIDS response over the next five years, provides compelling justification, to focus on adolescent girls by maintaining HIV firmly on the political agendas; and allowing our young people, to guide the way for concrete action.

She said overall, AIDS-related illnesses, were the leading cause of deaths among adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the second leading cause of death globally.

Earlier this year, in February 2016, OAFLA launched “A United Continental “ALL-IN” Adolescent HIV Campaign”, during the 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health & Rights, in Accra, Ghana.

The campaign called for intensified efforts, to prevent HIV infections, and AIDS-related deaths amongst adolescents, through the concerted advocacy of African First Ladies, vibrant and focused leadership of adolescents among others.

Mrs Lordina Mahama indicated that a key requirement, to achieving an AIDS-free generation, and attaining epidemic control was the empowering of adolescent girls. She said by actively engaging adolescents, in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of HIV policies, services and programs would greatly reduce new HIV infections.

She said Africa’s adolescent girls and young women were seriously affected by the epidemic and were very vulnerable to HIV infection, and AIDS-related deaths.

The First Lady lamented that while great progress had been made, in achieving the objective of universal services, for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support, sadly new infections among adolescent were rather increasing.

She said globally, new HIV infections have declined by 38 percent, over the last 15 years but every hour in Africa, 26 adolescents aged 10-19 years were infected with HIV; leading to an estimated 250,000 new HIV infections in Africa alone with adolescent girls and young women, aged 15 to 24 being especially vulnerable.

According to her in high burden countries, of Sub-Saharan African, adolescent girls contribute a significant 30 percent, of all new HIV infections and this was much higher than their percentage of the general population.

On his part, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Michel Sidibe called for a holistic approach to the AIDS menace. He said it would be impossible to end AIDS if the adolescents were not put at the centre of the approach.

The Executive Director of GAVI, the vaccine alliance, Mr. Seth Berkley said ending AIDS would take every leadership, organization and everyone to do it right with the adolescent.

A 20-year-old student from Zimbabwe, Thandiwe Mudhumo who spoke on behalf of adolescents living with HIV called leaders, organisations and families to focus more attention on the adolescent to save their lives and that of future generations.