NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 24 – A meeting of HIV/AIDS experts from around East Africa was scheduled to begin on Tuesday in Nairobi to review the region’s prevention interventions.,
The three-day conference dubbed ‘HIV prevention think tank’ was also due to discuss approaches that should be scaled up due to their impact, and those that should be given less prominence and funding.
East Africa Community (EAC) Health Coordinator Stanley Sonoiya said ahead of the convention that in the past, there had been too much emphasis on treatment rather than prevention.
“From what we have seen I think we have to go back to the basics, which says prevention is better than cure. The economies of the East African countries cannot sustain the treatment,” said Dr Sonoiya.
He added that the meeting’s agenda would include the creation of political awareness of steps that required cooperation between EAC partner states.
The meeting, which is the first of its kind in the region will be held by the EAC in partnership with the United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
“It is also an important element of the EAC member states on the 2005 declarations on achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care,” he said.
The meeting has drawn participants from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zanzibar. Adult HIV prevalence ranges from two percent in Burundi to 7.8 percent in Kenya.
UNAIDS, East and Southern Africa HIV Advisor Hellen Jackson said there was need for results in HIV prevention in order to sustain treatment.
“You can imagine if each person who has HIV progresses to AIDS, the financial burden of sustaining treatment becomes enormous and the only way to make sure it is sustainable is to turn off the tap of new infections,” she said.
“Otherwise down the line, no countries are going to be able to afford to keep up the treatment.”
The National Aids Control Council (NACC) on the other hand said that the highly publicised ABC method of Abstain, Be faithful or use a Condom to prevent the spread of HIV needed to be supplemented with other preventative strategies to be more effective.
NACC director Alloys Orago said as they shifted their campaign to prevention of new infections, the council had set aside about Sh23 million for prevention strategies to boost the existing ones.
“There are other new initiatives that we think should complement ABC. So it is the new that we are adding to what you already know to make a difference because we are looking for a combination that will deliver us to the promised land making sure that there are no more new infections,” Professor Orago explained.
He said the council wanted to bring on board strategies backed up by evidence that if implemented within communities would make a difference.
“The ultimate goal is to ensure that we reduce new HIV infections and we are also able to control morbidity and mortality that is characteristic of HIV infections within the region.”