HIV/AIDS crisis has for a long time been affecting Africa's economic and social prospects. It follows human migratory patterns and therefore has no respect for human boundaries. It has exerted undue pressure on limited infrastructure, resources and impacts negatively on productivity.
While on a four-nation Africa tour in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia and Senegal, former US president Bill Clinton suggested that keeping HIV-infected children in the developing world well-fed will be crucial to fending off the deadly virus. Clinton said he saw children in Ethiopia who were so malnourished that they could not absorb life saving antiretroviral drugs. He therefore called for a reexamination on the food production and consumption as well. But is nutrition the only way forward in this war?
According to the UN report, some 2.1 million people died of AIDS last year and at least 33 million people worldwide have the HIV infection, two-thirds of them in Africa. Indeed, of the 22 million people in Africa infected with HIV, only about 2 million have access to antiretroviral drugs. This clearly indicates that the disease is still on the rise.
In 2002 at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, Clinton and Nelson Mandela urged government and business leaders to "exert stronger leadership" to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Clinton called on the United States to "help underwrite AIDS prevention and treatment in developing nations. Mandela meanwhile called for strong leadership and additional treatment and testing as the effective response in the fight against the disease.
Year in, year out, various approaches have been suggested by different people towards the war on the pandemic, however collective measures need to taken towards the same. Leadership should aim at making HIV/AIDS a priority in all development programmes at the community, regional and national levels. Governments should introduce and support policies and programmes that will raise awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS with a view of bringing about behavioural change.
Institutional frameworks should be put in place to bridge the gap between declarations and the implementation of declarations. It is upon various African governments to facilitate the development of health policies that will build on the vast indigenous knowledge and practice that will strengthen collaboration between modern medicine and medical practitioners of traditional medicine. African nations should encourage direct regional and bilateral sharing of experiences on lessons learnt in responding to AIDS and support the International Partnership against AIDS in Africa. Transparency of the decision-making process and accountability among all officials involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS is paramount to make this war possible. Treatment should be affordable and accessible to all citizens.
There is need for political will in fighting this pandemic in Africa. It is time all the promises in the fight are put into action. Aids is not curable but it can be managed if our governments improve Aids-related health policies and programmes. Nutrition is just one way in combating the scourge but it is not all together effective if all other collective approaches are not combined.