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ANGOLA: National AIDS plan launched

Photo: Dawn Soisson
Angolan youth a target of the strategic plan
luanda, 28 November 2003 (PlusNews) - A national strategic plan to combat HIV/AIDS was launched in Angola this week. A collaborative effort between the Angolan government and the United Nations, it will form the basis of the country's efforts to tackle the epidemic over the next five years.

"I think it's a very good document, since it focuses on three main strategies – institutional capacity, prevention, and help to people already living with HIV/AIDS – which are completely in line the strategies already identified by UNAIDS. It's got a good budget that give clear indications in terms of financial resources," UNAIDS representative, Dr Alberto Stella, told IRIN.

Under the strategy, priority will be given to vulnerable groups such as the youth - especially young girls - truck drivers, the military, miners, and orphans.

But Stella said another key group that needed to be reached were the million of refugees and displaced people returning home after the end of three decades of civil war.

"In our opinion the country is not ready to integrate these people into society. They risk being marginalised and put in a situation where they are at high risk to get infected," Stella warned.

"We have, historically, a unique opportunity because the AIDS prevalence is lower than in other countries in the region. It's not a low prevalence – 5.5 per cent is high – but it's lower than in other countries. But Angola has all the ingredients to make the epidemic explode in three or four years," he added.

"The stories from the other countries show that you only need 10 years to reach almost 40 percent, like in Botswana. I'm afraid that the response capacity in Angola still is low. Nothing has been done to create better conditions, so we are just starting," Stella explained.

HIV/AIDS prevention programmes have so far concentrated on the urban areas. The new strategy promises that the rural areas will get more attention, especially in terms of education. Provincial plans should have been finished in December, but are likely to be postponed until March.

The government has committed itself to allocating more money in coming bugdets to HIV/AIDS. President José Edurado dos Santos said at the launch of the plan: "It is a fight that has to be fought every day. It is the most important fight in the world."

Stella said political leadership was needed to maintain the momentum, with UN agencies playing an important role in working with government ministries.

"In some cases you have clear evidence of high-level commitment, but these actions are not followed by concrete implementation of activities," he noted. "We can have hope because of the National AIDS Commission and the involvement of the president, but you have to remember that the commission was created a year ago and the first meeting was held today. The process is a little bit slow."

The performance of the strategic plan will be reviewed in 2005.

Theme (s): Other,

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

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