Senior United Nations officials on a joint mission to Mali have lauded the country for its progress in expanding HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, stating it can serve as an example to the rest of the continent in tackling the epidemic.
“From what I have read, the strategies in Mali are among the most successful of any country on the continent,” said Helen Clark, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
“I am sure many are interested to learn from your experience.”
Clark is on a four-day visit to Mali, along with Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
They began their visit in the city of Timbuktu, where they visited Groupe d’Appui à la Formation de Base (GAFB), a local civil society organization that provides HIV prevention through innovative peer education programmes among vulnerable populations, including uniformed services, youth, and domestic workers.
“Twenty years ago when I was Minister of Health in my own county, we had the same chance that you have today in this region to stop the epidemic in its tracks,” said Clark, a native of New Zealand. “We were successful because we had a very inclusive approach.
“Mali should be the example for other countries in Africa on how to halt the HIV epidemic,” she added.
Sidibé said that GAFB is working to give people a voice and help the most marginalized members of society.
“This organization is showing that we can end the HIV epidemic by focusing on those that are most vulnerable,” he said. “I am honoured to join Helen Clark on her first visit to Mali, which is a clear sign of the UN’s commitment to reach zero new HIV infections.”
According to Government estimates, Mali’s HIV prevalence declined from 1.7% in 2001 to 1.3 % in 2006 and about 27 000 people were receiving anti-retroviral treatment in 2009, representing more than 80 % of those in need.
UNAIDS estimates that 100 000 people are currently living with HIV in Mali.
The two officials are expected to meet with a number of senior leaders, including President Amadou Toumani Touré, Prime Minister Modibo Sidibé and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Moctar Ouane.
Mali is the first stop on Clark’s four-nation visit to Africa to highlight progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, including halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS. She will also visit Burkina Faso, Tanzania, and South Africa.
In a related development, it was announced today that Heraldo Muñoz of Chile has been appointed UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, replacing Rebeca Grynspan, who has been appointed as the agency’s Associate Administrator.
In addition, Sigrid Kaag of the Netherlands has been appointed Assistant Administrator and Director of the Partnerships Bureau. She succeeds Bruce Jenks, who has retired from service after a long and distinguished career with UNDP.