In the coming days, African leaders, civil society representatives, bureaucrats, academics and healthcare professionals will begin to arrive in Abuja Nigeria for a two week marathon session that is formally known as the Abuja+12 Summit. A number of critical meetings were held in Abuja in 2000,2001, and 2006 focused on addressing AIDS, TB and Malaria in Africa - this year they gather to review the status of the outcomes of those three earlier meetings and to re-commit to reversing the impact of the 3 diseases "by ensuring universal access to services and strengthened health systems".
At that April 2001 Special Summit African leaders of the Organization of African Unity (now African Union) committed to improve policies and investments to address the challenges of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, including the health financing pledge. They committed to allocate at least 15% of their domestic annual government budgets to the health sector. In April 2006 they reaffirmed earlier commitments and the implementation of the 2001 declarations five years after they were made and most importantly their commitment to allocate 15% of their national budgets to health, and to incorporate health financing plans into national development plans. Now they will undertake a 12 year review of progress and challenges in the fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria on the continent.
These commitments by African leaders is critical considering that Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10% of the world's population, but is home to more than 60% of all people living with HIV - 25.8 million
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As advocates, many HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria organizations have worked heavily on health financing: to actualize the commitments made in Abuja, to evaluate progress, identify lessons learned and to simply hold government accountable for the commitments that they have made.
It is important for the world to know that in being pro-active, in holding our governments to account for their commitments, we have made progress. In Africa, the spread of HIV/AIDS has halted and been reversed with a significant drop in prevalence (from 5.9% to 4.9%). At the time of the first Abuja meeting in 2000, less than 5% of sub-Saharan Africans who needed ARV treatment for HIV had access to it - today, more than half (56%) do. TB and Malaria are both still considered significant threats to the health of Africans, however the spread of these is being halted and thus with domestic and international financial support, Africans can live to see the end to these epidemics. Over half of the households in sub-Saharan Africa at risk of malaria (53%) are estimated to own at least one insecticide treated net, a huge increase since the Abuja 2000 summit which focused on malaria when only 3% of households had nets.
The 2012 global reports on these 3 diseases all clearly indicated that the trend around the world, including in Africa, has been increased domestic financing for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. The Global Fund has been a significant player in the work to halt and begin - in the case of HIV/AIDS to reverse the spread - of these diseases. Of international sources, the Global Fund accounts for over 20% of HIV/AIDS resources and well over 80% for both malaria and TB. However, most advocates, governments and even donors like the Global Fund itself know that the bulk of financing for the 3 diseases, and for health in general, must come from domestic sources. The Global Fund's resource projections based on the most recent global reports for the 3 diseases depends upon a fairly ambitious increase in domestic financing - from current levels of $23 billion to $37 billion (an increase of $14 billion).
As advocates we know that it is critical that African countries continue on this upward trend: increases in financing have led to increased results, dramatically increased results, in the fight against the 3 diseases and the community and health systems that are needed to achieve them. As we approach the end of the time frame for the Millennium Development Goals, we need to take stock of African leaders commitment in Abuja to ensuring accelerated action towards Universal Access to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria (ATM) services in Africa by 2010 although we must re-invest and re-focus our energies to reaching all those who still have not been reached.
In Abuja, civil society will be meeting and marching to keep up the pressure on our governments to not let up on this fight, to not stagnate or fall back and risk the gains that took a decade to build. As advocates we know that now is the time to get it right: now is the time to invest in the beginning of the end of these 3 diseases.
Lucy Chesire: TB-HIV advocate from Kenya Board Member of the Global Fund Board Communities Delegation.
About the Here I Am campaign:The Here I Am campaign is a global call on world leaders to save millions of lives by supporting a fully funded Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Here I Am brings the voices of people that are directly affected by AIDS, TB and malaria into dialogue about decisions that affect their lives and the lives of millions of others in their countries. Through video testimonies from all over the world, campaign ambassador advocacy, online actions and on-the-ground mobilizations, the Here I Am campaign is building collective power to end three of the world's most deadly diseases. www.hereiamcampaign.org