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Saturday 20 May 2006
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SOMALIA: Interim govt launches south-central AIDS commission


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]



©  Derk Segaar/IRIN

Somalia is currently in the grip of a severe drought

NAIROBI, 15 March (PLUSNEWS) - Somalia's Transitional Federal Government on Tuesday launched a commission to coordinate HIV/AIDS activities in the central and southern regions of the war-scarred Horn of Africa nation.

"Somalis everywhere must be educated on how to protect themselves from the virus but, even more importantly, we must support our brothers and sisters who already are infected, so that they are cared for and are not marginalised," Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Gedi said at the launch of the South Central AIDS Commission in the southern town of Baidoa.

"This is an opportunity for all of us to work together to stop, and even reverse, the spread of HIV/AIDS among Somali men, women and children," said Christian Balslev-Olesen, country representative for the UN Children's Fund. "We cannot fail in this, or else the consequences will be devastating, as we have seen in other parts of the world."

A 2004 UN World Health Organisation survey showed an average HIV prevalence of 0.9 percent in the country.

The commission's work will incorporate initiatives to provide universal access to treatment, care and support for all Somalis, while focusing on the most vulnerable groups, especially children, who make up the majority of the population.

The self-declared republic of Somaliland in the northwest and the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland in the northeast both established similar AIDS commissions in 2005.

After the 1991 overthrow of former President Siyad Barre's administration, Somalia lacked a legitimate central authority for close to 15 years, during which time the country was carved up into factional fiefdoms. It is widely hoped that under the interim leadership of the current transitional government - set up in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2004 - peace and stability will return to Somalia.

All three commissions are now expected to work towards a coordinated HIV/AIDS response, with an integrated prevention, treatment and evaluation framework.

"Primary prevention, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, paediatric treatment and protection, care and support of children all ensure that the next generation of Somalis can make informed choices from an early age and protect themselves," said Leo Kenny, UNAIDS country coordinator for Somalia.

Somalia is currently in the grip of a severe drought, with an estimated 1.7 million people in the northern, central and southern regions facing either conditions of acute food and livelihood crisis or humanitarian emergency.

"The current drought situation in the central south, and with it the significant number of populations who are in search of water [and food], and moving to urban centres (Wajid, Baidoa, etc), can further increase the HIV infection rates. It's critical that HIV prevention will be integrated into the current emergency drought response," UNAIDS said in a statement on Tuesday.

Gedi agreed, saying, "We recognise that HIV/AIDS can derail our efforts to harness our human resources for the reconstruction of our country."

[ENDS]




 
Recent SOMALIA Reports
Free ARVs, but stigma hampers HIV/AIDS fight in Somaliland,  1/May/06
Fighting HIV in a chronic emergency,  7/Apr/06
Commission to coordinate anti-HIV/AIDS efforts in Puntland,  18/Oct/05
Campaign against FGM launched on Women's Day,  8/Mar/04
UNICEF urges leaders to join fight against HIV/AIDS,  1/Dec/03
Links
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· AEGIS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance


PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


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