The “Mid-Term Review meeting on the Global Plan to Eliminate New HIV Infections” took place in Nairobi, Kenya, on December 6 & 7 2012 to take stock of the results achieved by African countries in the fight against AIDS and to draw a path towards the eradication of new HIV infections among children as well as to keep their mothers healthy.
Delegations from 22 African countries, representatives of the civil society, representatives of the United Nations and other relevant organizations involved in the struggle against HIV/AIDS attended the event.
The introductory speech was given by Deborah Von Zinkernagel, representative of PEPFAR (The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, a fund set up by the President of the United Nations in 2003).
In her speech she said that the countdown to reach the target set for 2015, the three zeros, has started: zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero deaths linked to HIV infection. It is a possible goal since now treatments to take care of the infection and to prevent the spread among the newborn are available.
There was some discussion on how to accelerate the scaling up of the vertical prevention in Africa since even today many African countries are lagging behind in the implementation of programs to combat AIDS. Among the critical issues were highlighted the shortage of human resources, the difficulty to carry out tests for the early diagnosis of infants on a large scale and the inadequacy in organizing logistic centers and procurement services for drugs and laboratory reagents.
Among the speakers was invited Pacem Kawonga, responsible for the movement I DREAM in Malawi and coordinator of one of the eleven DREAM centers in the country working in cooperation with the Government to combat the pandemic.
In her speech Pacem Kawonga described the situation in Malawi and told us about the life and problems of patients affected by AIDS in her country, referring in particular to the situation of women and those living in rural areas who have to live with the difficulty in accessing treatment.
In another working session dedicated to the challenges for the implementation of the treatment and prevention of AIDS, Pacem Kawonga participated as co-chairman and had the opportunity to explain the experience and the effectiveness of the DREAM model.
One of the characteristics of the DREAM centers for prevention and treatment is the involvement of the patients in the activities of the center. All patients receive notions of health education and some have chosen to collaborate actively in the program as expert volunteer patients (activists).
Their commitment allows reaching the people who live farther, hold lectures on health education in remote villages, encourage the diffusion of the test and support the most vulnerable through home care. They are all key factors that contribute to the excellent results of adherence and retention obtained by DREAM in the countries where it operates.
DREAM activists are mostly women who, thanks to the treatment are in good health and have given birth to healthy children. When they talk about their experience, they say of themselves that they feel as if they were born a second time; they have experienced the tragedy of HIV, stigma, fear and social discrimination, the difficulties of the disease but now are as if reborn and dream of a different future for many other sick people and, with enthusiasm and energy, deliver a message of hope to many. With tenacity and passion they struggle for an Africa without AIDS.
With the hard work of recent years a way to check and roll back the spread of the virus has been traced and, with a further commitment it will be really possible to achieve the three zeros in 2015.