The Council of Arab Ministers of Health endorses strategy to halt the HIV epidemic in Arab countries

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The Council of Arab Ministers of Health endorses strategy to halt the HIV epidemic in Arab countries

17 March 2014

The Council of Arab Ministers of Health endorsed on 13 March the Arab AIDS Strategy (2014-2020) during its 41st Ordinary Session held at the League of Arab States. The new Strategy is intended to guide the development of a coordinated and consensus-driven regional response to HIV.

In his opening remarks, Nabil El Araby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, noted the importance of the landmark achievement. “I congratulate the efforts made to finalize the Arab AIDS Strategy which began with a Saudi initiative and was concluded with the support of UNAIDS, international organizations and concerned civil society organizations,” he said.

The new strategy comprises 10 goals which are aligned to the targets set in the 2011 United Nations General Assembly Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS while maintaining a broader vision for an AIDS-free generation beyond 2015. The 10 goals of the strategy include: To reduce HIV incidence among key populations at higher risk of infection by more than 50%; to eliminate new HIV infections among children; to increase HIV treatment coverage to 80%; to address stigma and discrimination; to improve AIDS financing; to address the special vulnerability of women and girls; and to review the policies around travel restrictions.

In a resolution of endorsement, the Ministers of Health requested that the League of Arab States and UNAIDS work closely to support and monitor the implementation of the strategy at country level. The League will provide seed funding to kick-start the implementation of the strategy through the organization of three high-level forums to discuss issues related to women leadership, media and religious leaders.

“Health is one of the basic and principle rights for each individual without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion or political, economic or social affiliation,” said Adel Adawy, Egyptian Minister of Health and Population. “Raising the level of public health for the whole society is principle to achieving peace and security.”

UNAIDS worked closely with the League of Arab States, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other member states to provide political and technical support to develop the strategy. A series of consultations, workshops and technical validation meetings were organized as well as high-level advocacy conducted at regional and global level for the endorsement of the strategy by the Council of Arab Ministers of Health.

“The endorsement of the Arab AIDS Strategy demonstrates a longstanding commitment and leadership to the AIDS response in Arab countries,” said Yamina Chakkar, UNAIDS Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, on behalf of UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “We thank the Council for making the Arab AIDS Strategy possible and for being an important ally in helping to shape how we will work towards ending the AIDS epidemic in the post-2015 era,” she added.

The rise in new HIV infections makes the Arab region home to one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world. Between 2001 and 2012, the estimated number of people living with HIV in the League of Arab States member countries increased from 140 000 to 210 000. Since 2001, the number of people newly infected with HIV in the Arab countries has increased by more than 44%—from 18 000 to 26 000and between 2001 and 2012 there was a 69% increase in AIDS-related deaths in this region.