The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has reaffirmed Ghana’s commitment to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country by the year 2030 at a high-level meeting of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against Aids/HIV (OAFLA) taking place in New York on the side lines of the 72nd UN General Assembly.
Addressing the OAFLA meeting on the theme: “Global partnership towards harnessing the demographic dividend in Africa”, the First Lady noted that Ghana, as a country, is currently implementing the “Treat All and Task Sharing Policy” targeted at ending AIDS by 2030.
She said that the policy emphasises strengthening of our health systems as well as creating synergies and partnerships among government institutions, development partners, private sector, civil society organisations and faith-based organisations to deal with HIV/AIDS. She stressed that we can only achieve a healthy population if we strengthen our health systems, noting that “strengthening the health systems will have a ripple effect on the HIV response”.
Mrs Akufo-Addo also said that the implementation of the policy “had a direct correlation with the achievement of the demographic dividend” therefore, she called on African countries to work together to find synergies that would help harness the potential of its youthful populations in order to reap the dividend from them.
She further indicated that “the development and advancement of this youthful population remains Africa’s hope for the future” noting that the recent enormous demographic changes on the African continent due to improved infant and child survival rates, coupled with high birth rates, had resulted in most African countries having a youthful population therefore it has become pertinent “to focus attention on the youth, especially adolescent girls if we want to advance the pace of development on the African continent”.
Mr Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, in his remarks at the OAFLA meeting, reemphasised the need for African countries to invest in the education of its youth, especially girls and leverage on its social capital to address challenges such as child marriage, school dropout and HIV among the youth in order for them to achieve their full potential.
The African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Mrs Amira Mohammed, also urged African countries to increase their domestic funding for healthcare, especially for addressing HIV/AIDS as well as make education free to help keep the girl child in school and also end child marriage.
The UNFPA Acting Executive Director, Dr Natalia Kanem, also called for more investment in maternal health as well as the interest and protection of young people, especially girls.