African Union needs to listen to people living with HIV

As the African Union meets in Nigeria today for Abuja+12, member states face the challenge of developing financial investment plans for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

As the African Union meets in Nigeria today for Abuja+12, member states face the challenge of developing financial investment plans for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The political and fundraising landscape has shifted dramatically since the African Union set up the Abuja Declarations and Frameworks in the wake of the September 2000 Millennium Summit. And the financial crisis of the past few years has taken its toll on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and Malaria.

In 2010, certain antiretroviral and TB drugs were in short supply and health facilities started drug rationing. This sparked protests and petitions from people living with HIV and concerned civil society organisations.

Lives endangered by cost of services

In Zambia, currently a number of private institutions and hospices providing antiretroviral therapy services are closing down while others have started charging user fees for CD4 tests – which measure the health of your immune system.

Most people living with HIV cannot afford to pay for the test and their health will not be monitored any more.

This scenario endangers thousands of lives as patients face developing resistance to antiretrovirals and eventual death and the government needs to address this urgent situation.

Nothing for us without us

If the authorities would pay attention to our motto ‘nothing for us without us’ there would be no shortage of man power. People living with HIV have enough experience to dispense antiretroviral services, including CD4 tests alongside health personnel, with little or no supervision and most of them are willing to offer voluntary services because they understand what it takes to live with the virus.

We need urgent advocacy action to get the government to take over or run these private health institutions to avert their closure. But the irony is that there is too much stigma among people living with HIV and only a few are willing to march in a demonstration to fight for their rights.

When the African Union met on 27 May 2013, it issued a declaration on the determination of member states to defeat HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. In order to achieve this all stakeholders need to pay greater attention to the GIPA principles (Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV). And these principles need to inform the agenda in Abuja today.

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