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Press releases 2011

Malaria and AIDS Communities Call for Joint Programming

Press release 06.12.2011

Addis Ababa, 6 Dec. 2011 – Global health Partners attending the 16th Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa – ICASA – have called upon policy makers to reap the enormous potential for synergies between malaria and HIV programmes. More than 7,000 participants from the HIV/AIDS, health and development communities are attending the conference, hosted in the Ethiopian Capital until Dec. 8.

People living with HIV/AIDS are at a greater risk of malaria infection, compared to HIV-negative people. As HIV infection weakens immunity, HIV-positive people are more likely to succumb to the invasion of malaria parasites. The effects of interactions between malaria and HIV are particularly damaging to maternal and infant health. Co-infection can mean low birth weight, severe maternal anaemia, increased infant mortality, and an increased chance of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and malaria.

The impact of the interaction of HIV/AIDS and malaria is most apparent in areas with generalized HIV epidemics and stable malaria. Malaria/HIV co-infection is common in many areas of sub-Saharan Africa, where both diseases are widespread.

"For years we have been talking about the need for integrated health services in areas heavily affected by malaria and HIV to reduce the burden of the two diseases," said Carol Nawina Nyirenda, former Board member of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, representing the Communities Delegation. "Prevention and treatment programmes of the two diseases must reinforce each other much better, especially at the level of Country Coordinating Mechanisms(CCM)," Nyirenda explained, adding that "there is immense potential for synergies."

While activities to control malaria and HIV can easily be combined in health systems at the country level, joint programming is rarely a national policy approach, even less so when it comes to including other service delivery programmes focused on reproductive and child health, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections.

Collaborative programming of the HIV/AIDS and malaria response has not been mainstreamed within Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). The Global Fund reported that out of the 1,400 Civil Society members currently listed as part of the Global Fund's Country Coordinating Mechanisms, merely 117 implement both HIV/AIDS and malaria grants. This shows that efforts to increase joint programming at the country level need to be intensified.

Through closer collaboration and joint planning, health programmes at country level can deliver improved services at a reduced cost, thus making more efficient use of limited public health resources. Integrated public health approaches, like embedding rapid diagnostic testing for malaria in the context of HIV, are bound to increase efficiencies. "There is a massive potential for cost savings," said Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, Board member of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, representing the private sector constituency.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for mobilizing concerted action to control malaria and HIV, including establishing mechanisms for collaboration and joint programming at various levels of the health system.

ICASA serves as a forum to mobilize African leaders, health stakeholders and community organizations to increase ownership and commitment to the response against HIV/AIDS and to address the disease in a cross-functional way with TB and malaria.

Former US President George W. Bush joined the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, H.E. Meles Zenawi and Health Minister Dr Tedros Gebreyesus at the opening of the conference. "It is essential that our country not retreat from the world," Bush said in his opening remarks. "It is essential that we continue to show our compassion by funding programs that work. PEPFAR works, the malaria program works," he added.

The session on co-infection between malaria and HIV/AIDS at the 16th ICASA was convened by the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership and included speakers from UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, Vestergaard Frandsen, CITAM+ and RAP+ Afrique Centrale.

Michel Smitall,
RBM Partnership Secretariat
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