He told journalists at a press conference at the UN House in Cape Point, yesterday: “My mission here is to inform the UN, the government, partners, civil society organisations and the media that UNAIDS in The Gambia is back and up and running. This morning, I met with the vice president of The Gambia to extend our appreciation and gratitude to the leadership and to affirm our commitment to continue to support The Gambia. Progress has been made in the UNAIDS response though we still have some challenges as we fast-track towards ending HIV/AIDS. The reopening of the office is coming at a time of the progress made in our response in West and Central Africa. For example, deaths related to Aids have declined from 2005 to 2013 by about 17 percent. There are three countries in our region namely The Gambia, Burkina Faso and Ghana where Aids-related deaths have declined by more than 50 percent. New infections have also been on the decline by almost 37 percent in West and Central Africa. We are putting more people on treatment in the region to about 1.4 million people compared to 2003 when we had only 6000 people. When we look into the disease burden in West and Central Africa, we are talking about a region with about 6.1 million people living with HIV/Aids with a population of about 450 million. 74 percent of the 6.1 million people living in HIV/Aids are found in four countries including Nigeria, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast. So you will understand when it comes to making the decision to where to allocate resources, a decision was made to close offices in places where the disease burden was low. In the case of The Gambia, we have reversed that decision. The reopening was also happening at a time as you can remember in September during the 69th UN General Assembly there was a side event for all the nations to fast-track progress towards ending Aids if possible.
“By 2030, we can end Aids. Ending Aids does not mean that there will be people living with Aids beyond 2030 but Aids will then not be a public health threat anymore. Ending Aids means that we ensure that babies are not born with HIV and even if they are born with HIV, we have to ensure that they are given the tools and opportunities to take care of themselves and they can have life-saving medication. We have a very short window of opportunity starting from 2015 to 2020 and hence the need to fast-track the progress made and making sure that 90 percent of the people tested with HIV/Aids are put on treatment. We are based in Dakar where the UNAIDS regional office is located and we are covering 25 countries in West and Central Africa. We are physically present in 21 countries and our primary role from Dakar is really the provision of advice, guidance, technical support, promotion of partnership and ensuring that we can provide the basic guidelines. The trends and knowledge management in our countries and region should be managed in such a way that our economies robust and a comprehensive response to address HIV/Aids.”]]>