Official representatives of the ECOWAS member-states have signed a decree declaring their support for vulnerable populations programming as an essential pillar of their national HIV strategies in order to combat HIV/AIDS.
This was in acknowledgement that programmes and policies must emphasize access to health services for vulnerable populations, in order to reduce the burden and transmission of HIV in West Africa,
A statement from the United States Embassy in Accra said at a meeting hosted by the Government of Senegal and organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the West Africa Health Organization, member states finalized a declaration of their commitment.
The statement explained that it was line with the worldwide goal of ending AIDS by 2030, government officials from all 15 ECOWAS member-states today committed to providing comprehensive health services to vulnerable populations in West Africa.
“Experts recognize that controlling the epidemic in West Africa will require focus on populations that are under-served and at higher risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV, including vulnerable populations such as commercial sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs,” noted USAID/West Africa Mission Director Alex Deprez.
“We now know that in in countries (like India) where vulnerable populations have been prioritized, HIV prevalence in both the general and key populations has remained low with significant gains in reducing HIV nationally,” The Mission Director said
HIV prevalence among reproductive-age adults in West Africa has declined significantly over the past 15 years with rates below 4 percent in all 15 ECOWAS countries, hovering around 1 percent in most. Although clear gains have been made, vulnerable populations in the region carry a disproportionate burden of HIV.
The statement said the meeting brought together Ministers of Health, Justice Ministries staff, directors of national police forces, technical experts, donors and representatives of civil society organizations to review the HIV epidemic in the sub-region and its disproportionate impact on key populations.
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world.