Female leaders call for end to AIDS epidemic

Date: Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Female leaders from the Middle East and North Africa, meeting in Algiers, Algeria, on 10 and 11 November, called for advancing gender equality, the HIV response and universal access to HIV treatment and prevention in the region.

Organized by UNAIDS in collaboration with the Government of Algeria, the League of Arab States and UN Women, the high-level meeting was the first in a series aiming for all sectors of society to take action towards the implementation of the Arab AIDS strategy. The strategy addresses HIV as a public health and social issue, and builds a foundation for halting and eventually ending the AIDS epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa by 2030.

“I have come here to ask you to join me in the movement to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and to join me in placing women’s leadership, gender equality, respect and dignity at the centre of this movement,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.

Mr. Sidibé joined the leaders in their deliberations and emphasized that the implementation of the Arab AIDS strategy could pave the way for the region to end the AIDS epidemic. To do so, countries should ensure their societies are more inclusive, reach people who are being left behind in the AIDS response, mobilize civil society and seize the momentum initiated by female leaders to bring about change.

“This is the moment to ensure that the national response to HIV and AIDS is consistent with commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment. At the occasion of Beijing+20 and in deciding a post-2015 agenda, we urge you to play a decisive role in influencing the new world of post-2015 and ending gender inequality,” said Begoña Lasagabaster, Director, Leadership and Governance, UN Women.

Algeria has shown a strong political commitment to gender equality, with women holding 21 per cent of ministerial positions and 31 per cent of seats in parliament. The country’s HIV response is also an example to follow in the region. Algeria’s policy is to provide universal access to HIV prevention and treatment services, including free antiretroviral medicines to those in need, with up to 97 per cent of funding coming from domestic sources. Algeria has also succeeded in building a strong partnership with its dynamic civil society.

Speaking to Mr. Sidibé during his visit, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ramtane Lamamra commended UNAIDS for its efforts in reinforcing global partnership. Abdelmalek Boudiaf, the Minister of Health, reaffirmed his commitment towards the creation of the Research Centre of Excellence on Health and AIDS in Algeria.

Mr. Sidibé also participated in an event to belatedly mark United Nations Day, held each year on 24 October. The event demonstrated the strength and unity of the United Nations system in Algeria, which is working together to advance the AIDS response in the country.

This article has been cross-posted from UNAIDS: http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2014/november/20141111_algeria

Read about UN Women's work on HIV and AIDS here.