UNAIDS Executive Director meets with Bénin’s Head of State
22 February 2012
In an official meeting with President Boni Yayi of Bénin on 20 February, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé called on the country’s Head of State to use his position and influence as President of the African Union to accelerate the HIV response across the continent.
“We are counting on you to help us push forward the HIV response in Africa,” said Mr Sidibé, in a meeting with President Yayi in Cotonou. “With your leadership, I know that Africa can achieve the targets in the 2011 Political Declaration on AIDS.”
Mr Sidibé urged President Yayi to encourage his peers to allocate a greater share of domestic resources to the AIDS response. The UNAIDS Executive Director and the President agreed on the need for a high-level debate on how to finance Africa’s AIDS response over the long term.
During the meeting, the UNAIDS Executive Director congratulated President Yayi and his government on achievements in the national response to HIV.
As President of the African Union, I would like to launch a vibrant appeal to other African Heads of State, urging them to continue investing in programmes that can eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV
President Boni Yayi of Bénin
According to government figures, HIV prevalence in Bénin has stabilized over the past decade at approximately 2%. An estimated 62 000 people are currently living with HIV across the country and there are some 3300 new HIV infections each year.
At the end of 2010, an estimated 19 000 people were accessing free antiretroviral treatment, up from about 15 000 the previous year. Access to voluntary testing and counselling (VCT) is also expanding at a rapid rate: 126 sites across the country now offer VCT services, up from just 28 sites in 2006.
Mr Sidibé underscored the importance of using scare resources with greater efficiency, transparency and accountability. He emphasized the need to prioritize HIV resources for key affected populations—particularly women and girls, young people, sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs.
Eliminating new infections among children
Despite progress, only half (49%) of pregnant women in Bénin have access to services that can prevent new HIV infections in their children. An estimated 350 000 children were newly infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2010.
“As President of the African Union, I would like to launch a vibrant appeal to other African Heads of State, urging them to continue investing in programmes that can eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” said President Yayi. Following his meeting with Mr Sidibé, the President launched a national plan to eliminate new infections among children by 2015, at the Palais des Congrès in Cotonou.
During the mission, the UNAIDS Executive Director was honoured by Lord Chancellor Osseni Koubourath as a “Grand Officer” of the National Order of Bénin for his global leadership and engagement in the HIV response, and for his strong commitment to promoting human rights and dignity.
Mr Sidibé’s visit to Bénin was the first of a four-country mission in West Africa. He is scheduled to meet this week with high-level representatives from government and civil society in Togo, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.