Progress in the battle against Aids is
widely divergent in different African countries, so much so that to talk about
"Aids in Africa" as one epidemic needing a single approach has become
an anachronism, campaigners said.
In an analysis of the state of the global
fight against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Aids, the advocacy
group ONE said that while some African countries had reached a "tipping
point" against the disease, others lag far behind.
More than 35 million people worldwide are
infected with HIV, which causes Aids, and 25 million are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet within Africa, rates of HIV and Aids vary widely. "Our analysis shows
major distinctions between leaders and laggards, and that a one-size-fits-all
approach to tackling Aids on the continent does not make sense," said Erin
Hohlfelder, ONE's global health policy director.
"It's no longer useful to talk about
Aids from a continent-wide perspective," she said in a telephone
interview. "It's time to retire the phrase, 'Aids in Africa'." ONE is
an advocacy group, co-founded by the U2 front man and campaigner Bono, fighting
to end poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.
According to its report, 16 countries in
sub-Saharan Africa have reached what experts describe as the "beginning of
the end of Aids" – a point when the total number of new HIV infections is
lower than the number of patients newly receiving Aids treatment in the same
Leading the pack are countries such as
Ghana, Malawi and Zambia, where governments, international donors and civil
society leaders have worked together, the report said, and as a result have
made dramatic progress against HIV/Aids.
Yet at the same time other countries – such
as Cameroon, Nigeria and Togo – lag far behind, often hampered by a lack of
political will to tackle HIV, inadequate funding, poor delivery systems and
stigma against marginalized populations where HIV infections are more
frequent. "Increasingly, both in terms of how we talk about the disease and
also how we fight it, it makes more sense to look country by country, even
community by community," said Hohlfelder.
"Then we can think about what progress
we've made, what challenges remain and how best to put resources into tackling
them." Looking globally, the ONE report found significant progress toward
achieving "the beginning of the end of Aids".
"If current rates of progress
continue, the world can reach that milestone by 2015," it said.
Lack of money
Hohlfelder cautioned, however, that getting
there is "not a foregone conclusion", but depends on donors and affected
countries doing more together to ensure HIV treatment and prevention services
reach all those who need them.
The ONE report said one of the most serious
problems for the global HIV/Aids fight is a lack of money.
According to UNAIDS, there is a $3 to $5 billion
shortfall in the annual $22 to $24 billion needed to turn the tide against the
Funding from international donors for Aids
has flatlined, and besides that, the majority of African governments are also
not meeting their commitments to spend 15% of their budgets on health. "In
many ways, the Aids fight is struggling as a result of its successes,"
Hohlfelder said. "Because it is no longer perceived as a global health
emergency, but rather a chronic and manageable disease, the fight has lost some
of its political momentum."