NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 – Over $2 billion would be required to implement HIV prevention interventions in the East African region, a meeting of experts on Thursday concluded.
In the three day meeting, regional experts agreed on the adoption of strategies to stop new infections by developing programmes aimed at reduction of multiple relationships, upscale male circumcision and engage HIV positive people to access the required treatment.
UNAIDS Regional Director, Mark Stirling said East African governments must embrace commitment to halve HIV infections by 2015.
“Perhaps the greatest challenge is for us to move from projects that are donor driven to the mobilisation within communities to bring about the social transformations and changes required,” Mr Stirling remarked.
“There is no point of governments and their partners developing effective strategies if there are no available internal resources and commitments,” he added.
Mr Stirling noted that over 500,000 new HIV infections occurred in the region last year, which could be reduced significantly if governments implemented the new measures agreed upon.
“By 2015, we can actually avert more than 800,000 new infections, which is an extraordinary achievement. Reflect that in the lives of young people growing up free of HIV, the hundreds of children who would benefit from solid parenting,” he added.
Head of the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP), Dr Nicholas Muraguri, said Kenya targeted to reach over 80 percent of the adult population to take HIV tests by 2010.
“Since we know the key people who are contributing to the spread like truck drivers, they are going to be offered services across the region such that you can be tested in Nairobi and when you go to any other country in the region you can be treated,” said Dr Muraguri.
“The commercial sex workers are also another group that we cannot ignore.”
It was agreed that the implementation of the programmes would begin immediately and would be done at both national and regional levels.
The East African Countries include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Meanwhile, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) expressed concerns over lack of HIV related programmes in the workplaces.
ILO HIV workplace National Programme Coordinator, Catherine Nderi, said many organisations lacked information on the importance of such programmes in the workplaces.
“I think it’s a misconception that managing HIV is expensive. As we have heard from the insurance companies they are now able to confidently and comfortably cover HIV/AIDS cases,” Ms Nderi said.
“So even when the Human Resources managers have the information they need to assist their employees then we expect that the cost becomes lower,” she added.
She said HIV should be treated and discussed openly like any other disease, even in the workplaces.
Kenya Shell Special Projects Manager, Engineer Patrick Obath urged employers to include HIV in a wellness package to avoid stigma.
“HIV is not something that people should be sacked about, it is just another illness that should actually be taken care of,” he said.
“My view is that we would be able to achieve a reduction of about 30 percent of the costs that we are currently incurring in health care if we appropriately managed HIV.”