US government working for AIDS-free future

Deborah Birx, Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to Combat HIV and AIDS says her government has rolled out programmes and projects to ensure AIDs-free generation, targeting young women, in Sub- Saharan Africa.

“Adolescent girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection and prevention efforts to date have not had the impact we need,” she said.

She said: “Almost 60 per cent of all new HIV infections among young people aged 15 to 24 occurs among adolescent girls and young women.

“We also know that in sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women are more likely than their male counterparts to be living with HIV.”

Birx told journalists via a teleconferencing on Wednesday that the Department of State self-help programme for PEPFAR (US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is designed to assist communities with HIV interventions that they initiate and plan.

“Projects are implemented by community-based groups for the direct benefit of members,” she said, adding that the intended beneficiaries of the interventions cover PLHIV and female sex workers and their non-paying partners.

PEPFAR is working with partners to accelerate the development of new high-priority paediatric treatment by 2017 through the Global Pediatric Antiretroviral Commitment-to-Action.

Ms Birx said a new $ 210 million public-private partnership between PEPFAR, the Nike Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would deliver innovative, evidence-based interventions to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women over the next two years.

PEPFAR is continuing to increase data transparency, making statistics accessible and actionable for impact and a $ 200 million initiative would enable 300,000 more children living with HIV to receive antiretroviral treatment

In 2013, more than 80 per cent of new HIV infections among adolescents in the hardest hit countries occurred among girls. Every year, an astonishing 380,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV.

The US Embassy Public Affairs office offers small PEPFAR public diplomacy grants that promotes HIV and AIDS prevention and education though outreach and information sharing activities.

It also provides science based education about HIV and AIDS, tailored to reach Ghana most at risk populations.

PEPFAR, which is a global initiative to control the HIV and AIDS pandemic, is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease.

Over the past decade, the US has committed more than $ 52 billion to bilateral HIV and AIDS programmes, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and bilateral tuberculosis programmes.

To achieve an AIDS-free generation, PEPFAR works closely with a variety of stakeholders including partner countries, multilateral organisations, civil society, and people living with and affected by HIV, the faith community, the public and private sectors.

The goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation is a shared responsibility with partner countries and neither the US nor any other single entity could accomplish this goal alone, Ms Birx said.

It requires all partners to intensify their efforts, which includes supporting partner countries to effectively coordinate those providing financing and technical support as well as implementing programmes within and outside of the health sector. GNA

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