Feature story

Increased domestic funding for AIDS is a ‘national priority,’ says the President of Côte d’Ivoire

28 February 2012

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé (left) met with the President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire on 27 February in Abidjan.

Meeting on 27 February with President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé noted with concern that the country relies heavily on external aid to finance its national AIDS response—a trend seen in many countries across Africa.

Approximately 87% of HIV investments in Côte d’Ivoire are financed through external sources. A vast majority of HIV medicines used in the country are imported. The Government of Côte d’Ivoire recently reported a funding gap of approximately
US $20 million for its national HIV programme.

To bridge the HIV resource gap, Mr Sidibé urged President Ouattara and his government to explore more diversified sources of financing such as low-interest loans from the African Development Bank and taxes on the use of mobile phones.“Côte d’Ivoire needs home-grown solutions for a sustainable response to the national HIV epidemic,” said the UNAIDS Executive Director, while meeting with President Ouattara in Abidjan.

A call for the local production of HIV drugs

By manufacturing antiretroviral drugs within Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and neighboring countries across the region could avoid drug shortages and benefit from lower drug prices, said Mr Sidibé. The UNAIDS Executive Director also spoke of an urgent need for a single African drug regulatory agency to ensure the faster roll-out of quality-assured HIV medicines to the African population.

Stating that increased domestic financing for HIV is a “national priority,” President Ouattara said that his government would seek innovative funding solutions to reduce its dependency on external aid. He pledged to use his platform as President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to mobilize other African leaders to catalyze the local production of antiretroviral medicines.

Progress in the national response

Mr Sidibé commended the Government of Côte d’Ivoire for the more than four-fold increase in access to HIV treatment over the past five years—from approximately 18 500 to more than 75 000 people. He urged President Ouattara to build on these gains and close the remaining treatment gap of 150 000 people.

Côte d’Ivoire needs home-grown solutions for a sustainable response to the national HIV epidemic

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

The UNAIDS Executive Director praised the Government of Côte d’Ivoire for its efforts to reduce new HIV infections among children: As of end-2011, 54% of HIV-positive pregnant women in the country were able to access services that prevent HIV transmission from mother to child. Mr Sidibé called on the leadership of Côte d’Ivoire to champion the UNAIDS vision of “Zero new HIV infections in children.”

Remaining challenges

During his meeting with President Ouattara, Mr Sidibé noted that the dynamic flow of migrants between Côte d’Ivoire and neighboring countries poses a major challenge to the HIV response in West Africa. A failure to contain the HIV epidemic in Côte d’Ivoire would have negative consequences across the region, he warned. An estimated 3.4% of the population in Côte d’Ivoire is living with HIV—the second highest national HIV prevalence in West Africa.

The UNAIDS Executive Director spoke of the importance of addressing the widespread stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV. He said that reaching minority and vulnerable groups in Côte d’Ivoire with HIV services would be critical to reversing the epidemic—particularly men who have sex with men, sex workers and people who use drugs.