African First Ladies vow to defeat HIV/AIDS on the continent

African First Ladies on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to fight and defeat HIV/AIDS.

They made the commitment in Kigali, Rwanda, at a meeting on the sidelines of 20th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) themed “Leadership of African First Ladies in the fight against HIV and AIDs”.

President of OAFLAD and First Lady of the Republic of Congo H.E. Madam Antoinette Tchibota Sassou-Nguesso recalled that the First Ladies have been fighting HIV for almost 20 years since OAFLAD was formed, adding that the support and experience gained over those years has demonstrated “our willingness to achieve the objectives for which OAFLAD was formed.” 

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First Lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame said in her welcome remarks that OAFLA was born, “out of our collective need, to amplify the voices of those living with, and affected by HIV and AIDS, especially the women and children, who are the most vulnerable. She invited First Ladies to reflect on their multifaceted roles in this journey to ensure that communities fully thrive and called on them to acknowledge what has worked and reveal what has not, to enable them to make more meaningful interventions.

She said initiatives such as the Free to Shine Campaign, being anchored by African First Ladies have made tremendous impact, “pushing us to strengthen our efforts and commitment to end Pediatric AIDS and keep mothers healthy.”

Comments by Donald Kaberuka of the Global Fund and Malick Fall of UNICEF all indicate that Africa has made tremendous progress economically and politically but they both agreed on the need to increase budget for public health and call on OAFLA to be part of this campaign. 

Representative of Dr. Aisha Buhari and Special Assistant to the President on OAFLAD, Mohammed Albishir in a media interaction said, Mrs. Buhari has used her position as UNAIDS Ambassador on Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission (EMTCT) of HIV/AIDS to partner extensively in the reduction of the prevalence of HIV children and young people. Only last week, he said, she organized a symposium to mark the World AIDS Day, 2019 under the theme. “Communities make the difference, adolescent and young people matter.” She also had a successful Launch of the Free to Shine Campaign late last year.

Mr. Albishir said she had reiterated the importance of girl child education, poverty reduction, equality and fight against GBV as important factors that will reduce HIV among youths, especially girls, whose rate of infection has been proven to be on the rise.

The conference was attended by the First Ladies of Ghana, Niger, Chad, Rwanda, Botswana and Congo as well as international development organizations and donor agencies.

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