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Transit communities in focus at HIV meeting

NAIROBI, July 25 – A two day meeting of the Great Lakes Initiative on AIDS council of ministers came to a close Friday with an emphasis to strengthen HIV/AIDS initiatives among transit communities.

The meeting attended by ministers from Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya concluded that this group of people had been left out in response to the disease.

Special Programmes Minister, Dr Naomi Shabaan said they were also working with the East African Community to target these vulnerable groups.

“These are border people, the track drivers, refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and even the commercial sex workers since they are mobile communities. Targeting them will strengthen our national war against AIDS, and then we can say it’s actually total war,” she said.

“Otherwise a certain percentage of the war was being lost that way.”
Shabaan who was also the chair of the meeting said the targeted people had been organised in groups where they would be trained in capacity building and engaged in other income generating projects.

“We are moving on to make sure that the funds that we have been given by the donors are utilised because certain things which were supposed to have been done had not been done on time. So we lost out on time and a bit of money,” said Shabaan.

For the annual budget, each of the six countries contributes $50, 000 while the World Bank, which is the main donor, contributes $20 million.

The initiative was started in 2004 to address the issues that had been left out in the response towards HIV/AIDS to add value to the national response in the Great Lakes Region.

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Kenya had been the chair for the last one year on a rotational basis and now passed over the mantle to Rwanda.

“Once we are able to control issues concerning HIV/AIDS in this region, we can then spread out to Western Africa,” Shaaban said.

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