AIDS devastating Africa, 14 million people died since 2000: UN

June 10th, 2008 - 1:15 am ICT by IANS  

New York, June 9 (DPA) The AIDS epidemic has eroded African societies in multiple ways, from threatening government institutions to decreasing agricultural production, a report said Monday, adding that more challenges were expected in coming years. The report by the African Development Forum presented at a conference on HIV/AIDS at the UN headquarters in New York provided a gloomy analysis of the situation in sub-Saharan Africa, which has been hardest hit by AIDS in the world.

“Our overall conclusion is that the epidemic poses a great threat to governance in Africa,” the forum said. “In many parts of the continent the impact of AIDS already has significant consequences for all forms of social, economic and political activity and thus for governance in the years to come.”

The disease has killed more than 14 million Africans since 2000 when the continent established the African Development Forum to raise awareness of the impacts of HIV/AIDS. Millions had died before that year, but the forum was considered a watershed in the fight against the epidemic.

An estimated 17 million Africans have been infected with the AIDS virus since 2000 and the number of AIDS-related orphans increased from 8.5 million in 2000 to 14 million in 2006. The UN estimated a total of 32.2 million people living with HIV around the world in 2007.

The forum said AIDS deaths in Africa have created a brain drain, reducing the ranks of educated and professional people, and preventing the education of younger cadres.

The most severely hit African countries included Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Lesotho, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Malawi, Kenya and Uganda.

Shortened life expectancy due to AIDS, as low as less than 40 years, have been documented in Botswana, the Central African Republic, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The gross national product in worst AIDS-hit African nations could contract by 18 percent by 2020, and the disease could kill 13 to 26 percent of the agricultural labour force in those countries by that year.

The UN said its efforts to provide anti-HIV/AIDS anti-retroviral treatments, which reached one million infected people in 2007, was outpaced by the number of infections - 2.5 million in the same year.

“Strong, sustained political commitment and leadership” was needed to fight the epidemic, which has killed more than 25 million people since AIDS was first isolated in the mid-1980s, the report said.

“True leadership is reflected in action, not words.”

The HIV/AIDS conference was aimed at a progress review in order to provide new impetus and activities so the spread of the epidemic could be halted by 2015. The drive is part of the so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000.

Other MDGs are eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, the achievement of universal primary education, reduction of child mortality rates and improvement in maternal health care by 2015.

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