African Leaders To Meet To Discuss Ways To Fight HIV/AIDS, Improve Women’s Health
Members of parliament from Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania next week will meet in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss strategies for fighting HIV/AIDS and improving women's health, Xinhua News Agency reports. Discussion topics for the two-day conference, scheduled for Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, include stigma associated with HIV, women's health policy and ways to connect lawmakers with communities.
Lawmakers in sub-Saharan Africa can be "powerful agents for change in the fight against HIV and AIDS and in shaping national health systems to improve women's and girls' access to health services," a statement from the International Center for Research on Women said. The leaders attending the conference are part of the Parliamentarians for Women's Health Project, a three-year initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that aims to strengthen lawmakers' positions as advocates for women's health care by making connections with constituents, including HIV-positive women, and through health care policy and budget analysis.
Kenyan Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai and former Irish President Mary Robinson -- who serves as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights and president of Realizing Rights -- are scheduled to speak at the conference, Xinhua News Agency reports (Xinhua News Agency, 8/5).
UNICEF, Family Health International Launch Program To Fight HIV/AIDS in Five Countries
In related news, UNICEF and Family Health International have launched a joint program to combat HIV/AIDS among women in five countries: Guyana, India, Malawi, Nigeria and Zambia, VOA News reports. The program, which also is aimed at children, will focus on preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission and improving pediatric HIV care. FHI Chair Albert Siemens and UNICEF Director Alan Court said the program will combine UNICEF's program implementation knowledge with FHI's technical and management expertise.
Siemens added that both groups have a "firm commitment to help overcome the very limited reach we currently have globally in helping mothers and babies access needed prevention and treatment services." According to health workers in the countries, access to HIV testing and treatment, social stigma, drug costs and a lack of infrastructure are hindering efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. Court said there is a large gap in access to care between rural and urban areas, adding that the partnership will help to address the issue. According to Siemens, one of the biggest challenges in fighting HIV/AIDS is a lack of health care workers in developing countries (Ghuneim, VOA News, 9/5).