From July 12-16, representatives of government and nongovernment organizations from the approximately 50 member states of the African Union came together in the Nigerian capital of Abuja to discuss the state of the continent’s united response to the detrimental impact of the infectious diseases HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The conference’s name alludes the initial meeting on this topic held by the African Union in the same city 12 years ago, where the countries developed a framework for the “Abuja Call for Accelerated Action towards Universal Access to HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Services in Africa.” The 2001 conference was also instrumental in aligning local African country approaches to disease management with those followed by the United Nations, as well as establishing the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has been providing services to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa for over a decade, since the establishment of the Foundation’s first international clinic, the Ithembalabantu “People’s Hope” Clinic, in Umlazi, South Africa in 2001. Today, the Foundation supports the treatment of about 91,300 men, women, and children in nine countries throughout the continent. Because Tuberculosis can often co-infect clients living with HIV/AIDS and help with the transmission of the virus through blood coughed up from the respiratory infection, AHF also helps in the reduction of this condition’s passage.
In preparation for the Abuja + 12 Summit, AHF hosted a symposium in Abuja’s Immaculate Hotel on July 2, where representatives and activists from countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa discussed “Country Ownership and Sustainability of the Health Sector in Africa.” The goals of the symposium were to highlight and discuss countries that are either succeeding or in need of assistance in their efforts to control these three diseases, as well as to demand that African leaders scale up funding and take responsibility for the continent’s health sector as promised at the first Abuja conference in 2001.
AHF representative Kemi Gbadamosi moderated the symposium, and said that, according to a recent report from the International AIDS Conference held in Kuala Lumpur earlier this summer, Nigeria is in need of a serious scale-up in management of its HIV/AIDS epidemic, and was named the worst performing country in the report. Conversely, the report showed that Zimbabwe has greatly improved in funding the procurement of lifesaving antiretroviral medications. These examples and more were used to showcase what each county can and should do to individually help fight the spread of infectious diseases among their respective communities, ultimately supporting a healthier Africa as a whole.
An address from AHF Kenya Country Program Manager Dr. Stephen Karau went on to highlight the roles of speaking as a united continent; specific grassroots efforts in each country; strengthened partnerships among civil society organizations; and making clear demands for resources to fill gaps in country resources. A subsequent presentation from another organization additionally highlighted the impact of advocacy and community mobilization in ensuring country ownership of community health.
That following weekend, on July 6, AHF hosted a march through Abuja to garner the attention of African leaders and show the community groundswell in demanding access to treatment and care for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Delegates and youths from countries including Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, South Africa, and Senegal marched under bright and clear skies wearing red tee shirts emblazoned with the messages “Abuja + 12: Africa Leaders, Keep the Promise on HIV/AIDS” on the front and “Time to Act is Now” on the back.