Honorable ministers of Health
Esteemed health partners
Ladies and gentlemen
• Good evening. Thank you all for joining us this evening, despite your very busy schedules, to discuss ways in which we can all accelerate the HIV response in West and Central Africa.
• As you may be aware, we are facing a serious issue of very low coverage of Antiretroviral Therapy in West and Central Africa which is leading to unacceptable loss of lives due to the disease.
• It’s unacceptable because we know that people on treatment can lead long productive lives, gone are the days when HIV was considered a death sentence.
• Only 1.8 million, or 28% of people living with HIV in the sub-region, were receiving antiretroviral therapy by the end of 2015.
• This leaves a gap of 4.7 million of people in need not accessing HIV treatment.
• In East and Southern Africa, 9 out of 10 women had access to ARV treatment, but in West and Central Africa, only 5 out of 10 women had access to elimination of mother-to-child transmission treatment (eMTCT) by the end of 2015.
• The West and Central Africa sub-region has been lagging behind in progress against HIV/AIDS for multiple reasons. We cannot afford this status quo, something has to be done.
• In addition, the weak systems, disease outbreaks and low investments in the response by governments have also led to low access to vital services such as ART.
• UNAIDS and other partners in the Region developed the emergency catch-up plan to accelerate the HIV response in West and Central Africa, which calls for tripling HIV treatment coverage within the next three years.
• The plan has already been translated into national acceleration plans in your respective countries.
• Therefore, we’d like to use the opportunity tonight to see what we are doing in the sub-region and create renewed country ownership of the response.
• During this session, we will share progress made so far, key challenges, and lessons learnt as countries implement their accelerated plans.
• But also, we would want to hear how some of the countries in the Region have been able to scale up their response and pick up some lessons we can use in West and Central Africa.
• Proceeding from that, we’d like to hear the status of the implementation of your national catch up plans, your challenges and suggestions.
• I’d like to suggest few points to get the discussion going:
o What are your priorities for implementing your national catch up plans?
o How can WHO and partners support you to implement these catch up plans?
o What do the honorable Ministers present here believe is the best approach to achieve the goals of the catch up plan?
• As our close partners are present, we welcome your thoughts if you have additional suggestions.
• Thank you again for your commitment to this and for coming to this working dinner.