AIDS sufferers in cities across sub-Sahara Africa are set to benefit from a new strategy to fight the pandemic at the city level, an international HIV/AIDS conference in Nairobi was told this week. According to a new report presented at the conference, in cities and towns where the majority of sufferers live, a new strategy a is set to make a difference.
The report, published by the World Bank in collaboration with UN-HABITAT, the United Nations Development Programme, the Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders on HIV/AIDS in Africa (AMICAALL), and the Cities Alliance, is a handbook giving local authorities guidelines on how to tackle the pandemic at city-level using new sustainable and accountable techniques.
The report warns that HIV/AIDS is high in cities because of population density, the presence of transportation hubs, and the existence of large groups of vulnerable persons including sex workers, unemployed youths, migrant labour, and drug users. In general, mayors and councillors are responsible for policy direction, which chief executives in the private sector provide strategic leadership and management. “Buy-in from both is essential for an effective local government HIV/AIDS response,” it said, saying they had to be personally committed “to generate an effective HIV/AIDS response as well as to inspire others to take a stand addressing the epidemic”.
“As more people are affected with HIV/AIDS, a town or city will see decreases in labour productivity, increased demand for services, lower capacity of users to pay for services, greater household vulnerability and increased numbers of absolute poor (for example, orphans, and people living with HIV/AIDS),” the report said. “The climate for private investment will deteriorate and local government itself will suffer the absenteeism and productivity losses that result from increasing prevalence.”
UN-HABITAT and AIDS experts said more needs to be done at the city level to fight AIDS and to help one city learn from the lessons of another.
UN-HABITAT said it had started working with UNDP in Blantyre, Malawi, and in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in city consultations seeking to bridge the communication gap that exists between municipal, civil society and community groups. The strategy is aimed at institutional capacity building, good governance, information, awareness raising, reducing stigma and re-orienting municipal services to respond more effectively to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS.
In a speech to a meeting at the conference of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, said that the agency had also launched a community based shelter initiative for the orphans and other children in distress with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation.
“ It is imperative that gender and HIV/AIDS, especially as it affects women, orphans and vulnerable children, become part of the mainstream women’s agenda. Countries and regions will soon begin to prepare for the review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and also to develop plans of actions for the next 10 years,” she said.
“As First Ladies you can individually influence national and local level activities. You can influence the sub-region and regional activities to ensure that problems of the rural and urban poor women affected by the AIDS pandemic, as well as the problems of orphans, are appropriately addressed,” Mrs. Tibaijuka added.
She also stressed that a holistic approach involving governments, civil society, and the donor community was paramount, as was engaging with local governments, councils and municipalities.
The Executive Director cited UN-HABITAT research showing that the starting point in achieving this objective is secure shelter. Without a secure home, and a caring family and community, it was difficult, if not impossible, to provide health care and effective counselling to those afflicted. UN-HABITAT, she said, had therefore joined the concerted efforts of the UN-family to assist countries the world over, particularly in Africa, in their struggle against the scourge from a shelter dimension.
The conference was told that over 70 per cent of all HIV/AIDS deaths occur in Africa, which is home to nearly 30 million of the world’s 42 million people living with HIBV/AIDS. This has resulted in over 13 million orphans, creating an army of street children.
See also: http://www.unhabitat.org/programmes/hiv/default.asp for more on UN-HABITAT’s city strategy on HIV/AIDS, and in full, the Statement by Anna Tibaijuka, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN-HABITAT