Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 10:05 AM EDT, 19 November 2010
In its 8th General Assembly, members of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV and AIDS (OAFLA) gathered in Kampala, Uganda, to deliberate on the theme of “Maternal and Child Health.” The First Ladies renewed their commitment to champion the well-being of African women and children in a Declaration presented at the end of the meeting.
In her welcome remarks, Mrs Janet Museveni—host of the General Assembly and First Lady of Uganda—expressed her gratitude to all partners who have supported the efforts of OAFLA across Africa since 2001. Sharing Ugandan success stories from the 1990s, she encouraged her fellow First Ladies to use their positions to accelerate the HIV response in their respective countries. “We, the First Ladies of Africa, are supremely positioned to contribute, and even spearhead, HIV prevention campaigns—this is how we will drastically reduce the escalating numbers of new HIV infections among our populations,” she said.
Mrs. Azeb Mesfin, First Lady of Ethiopia and Chair of OAFLA, urged her fellow members of OAFLA to continue to use their roles to address HIV in collaboration with partners around the world.
“As African women and First Ladies, we have a tendency to downplay our strengths and achievements,” she said. “HIV in Africa is an African problem and we, as Africans, will work together to find the solution. This does not mean that we do not appreciate the generous support of our friends across the globe. It means that we will provide the leadership necessary to fight this epidemic.”
Speaking at the OAFLA General Assembly, UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibé congratulated African First Ladies for playing a leading role in saving mothers and preventing new HIV infections in children—a major concern for UNAIDS. “As First Ladies of Africa, you can be at the forefront of preventing mothers from dying and preventing babies from becoming needlessly infected with HIV.” He also lauded OAFLA’s “Save the Unborn Child” campaign, which has invigorated countries to push harder to reduce child mortality in Africa.
Mr Sidibé called on the First Ladies to encourage governments, communities, women’s groups, and the AIDS movement to support their efforts to save the lives of mothers and children in Africa. He announced that UNAIDS and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) will grant US$ 300,000 to OAFLA to support the development of regional and national activities to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and address barriers affecting the scale-up of essential services to eliminate pediatric AIDS.