July 27, 2012
The President of the Organization of the First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) and the first lady of the Republic of Namibia, Madame Penehupifo Pohamba told the audience of delegates and officials gathered at the 19th International AIDS Conference that the continent of Africa has made great strides in addressing HIV/AIDS, although nations still have far to go.
"Ten years ago Africa was a continent that was most adversely affected by HIV/AIDS," said Pohamba. "I feel privileged to be one of the 37 African first ladies and representatives who gathered in Geneva in 2002, where the OAFLA was established."
OAFLA develops policies and programs to fight the disease through advocacy, resource mobilization, and developing partnerships with stakeholders. The region has reduced its new HIV-infection rate by more than 26 percent, the first lady said, although 22 countries are still suffering immensely from the ravages of the disease, including her own.
Pohamba outlined seven objectives that must be implemented to rid the continent of the disease, including addressing fragmentation and duplication of efforts, improving holistic mother/child health programs and reproductive services, improving both treatment and prevention, and increasing governmental funding for HIV/AIDS programs in the sub Saharan region.
All people -- youth, men and women -- living with HIV/AIDS are crucial to planning, managing and implementing AIDS-related policies and programs, she said. More men, in particular, need to become involved to end Mother-Child transmission of the disease.
Achieving zero new infections, zero stigma and discrimination and zero HIV-related deaths by 2015 will take a collective effort.
"We are all equally needed to enhance cultural and behavior change for the sake of eliminating new HIV infection," she said.
Floyd Galloway is a Phoenix-based writer who works at the Arizona Informant.