While a wide range of AIDS epidemics occur across the Francophone world, this week in Casablanca, countries came together to speak with a common voice and with one common goal – stopping AIDS from making further inroads in French-speaking countries. Representatives from around 50 French-speaking countries wrapped up the 5th Francophone conference on HIV/AIDS today.
“I am impressed by the leadership Francophone countries have shown,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, “here in Casablanca we have heard about how French-speaking countries are making important contributions to the AIDS response.”
Mr Sidibé delivered an address during the closing ceremony of the conference. In his speech he said, “In partnership with Francophone countries my dream can become a reality: we can stop all new HIV infections.”
In partnership with Francophone countries my dream can become a reality: we can stop all new HIV infections.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé
During the conference, speaker after speaker highlighted the financial difficulties the AIDS response faced since the global economic crisis. Mr Philippe Douste-Blazy, President of UNITAID, called for a new approach to address funding needs.
It was the first time that the event, which began on 28 March, was held on the African continent. It brought together scientists, policy-makers and health and development experts from more than 40 countries.
"Over the past few days we have had a lot of fruitful exchanges. We have reached some important conclusions, now we must put them into action," said Patrice Debré, French Ambassador in charge of the fight against HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases.
It was also the first Francophone HIV conference in which UNAIDS participated significantly. The Joint United Nations Programme plans to continue this strengthening of cooperation with Francophone countries.
"I see UNAIDS presence here as the start of a new era of deeper collaboration with French-speaking countries," said Mr Sidibé, "We want to give value to their expertise and reinforce experience sharing between nations."
UNAIDS estimates that there were 4.1 million people living with HIV in Francophone countries and 340,000 new infections in 2008. Prevalence rates vary widely: for example Algeria has a rate of 0.1 percent while the Central African Republic has a rate of 6.3 percent.
The next Francophone Conference on HIV/AIDS will take place in Geneva, Switzerland in 2012.