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African First Ladies Agree To End Childhood AIDS By 2030   
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Rebecca Akufo-Addo
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African First Ladies on Monday agreed to champion “Free to Shine”, a continental campaign aimed at ending childhood AIDS in Africa by 2030 and to keep mothers healthy.

The campaign, launched at the 20th Ordinary General Assembly of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is being spearheaded by OAFLA and the African Union (AU).

In a six-point communiqué issued at the end of the OAFLA General Assembly, the First Ladies, also committed to advocate for resources and the prioritisation of the delivery of effective and sustainable HIV and AIDS health services that were accessible to all who needed them.

The Communiqué, which was read on behalf of OAFLA by Mrs Margaret Gakuo Kenyatta, the First Lady of Kenya, noted that, children were at greater risk of the potentially fatal consequences of HIV than any other age group.

They said 50 per cent of untreated HIV-infected children die before they were two years old.

The OAFLA expressed concern that new HIV infections were still being recorded among children and adolescents, especially, adolescent girls, and that, the numbers were not declining as quickly as among other age groups, particularly in Africa.

They said most new cases of HIV in children under 15 years were being caused by mother-to-child transmission, a situation which was worrying.

The OAFLA noted that, it recognised that providing services for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, especially, targeting young women of childbearing age was crucial to end AIDS.

It said, it was also cognizant of the fact that “we must not lose the momentum and the hard-fought gains of the global HIV movement, and that, eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV is critical to achieving the ambitious goals set out in the Agenda 2063, the Maputo Protocol and the revised 2016-2030 Maputo Plan of Action”.

The First Ladies have therefore, recommitted to increase understanding of how to prevent HIV and AIDS in children by keeping mothers healthy, preventing mother to child transmission and ensuring fast and effective identification and treatment of HIV infected children.

They pledged to advocate for the removal of barriers that prevented children, women and mothers affected with HIV and AIDS from accessing health services.

The OAFLA called on all Member States of the AU, the Heads of State, the Ministers of Health, Finance, Social Affairs and Local Government Leaders, Community Leaders, Traditional leaders and Religious Leaders, including the Media and Civil Society Organisations, to unite and support personal and collective understanding of the actions “we can take to end childhood HIV and AIDS”.

They, however, reaffirmed their commitment to leverage their unique position to support the implementation of “Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free; the Maputo Plan of Action and the State of the African Woman Campaign”, aimed at securing, releasing and extending the rights of young women and adolescents in African Union policies.

The 20th Ordinary General Assembly of OAFLA was held within the side-lines of the Africa Union Summit in Addis Ababa, which started on Saturday January 27 till Monday January 29.

It was on the theme: “Transforming Africa through Prioritising Children, Adolescents and Mothers in the Fight against HIV”.
Source: GNA

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