ECOSOC holds panel on effects of HIV/AIDS …

… and other widespread diseases on humanitarian relief operations
Panellists Stress That Prevention, Response to Disease Outbreak Is Everyone’s Business And That Coordinated Relief Operations Save Lives

Da: “ReliefWeb” del 14 luglio 2003 – Ginevra.

Massimo Barra, President of the European Red Cross Network on AIDS, said that no organization could defeat AIDS on its own, nor would politically correct speeches and debates change the course of the epidemic. Instead, changes in the policy environment among the governments of affected and donor countries and a collaborative approach among implementing agencies were needed.

The unfolding disaster in Southern Africa was an example of community erosion – the slow but inexorable destruction of the region’s social fabric. HIV/AIDS was driving this process; poor access to health care, the accelerated spread of tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases, lack of safe water and sanitation and ineffective agricultural production were its aggravating factors.

The challenges posed by HIV/AIDS could not be dealt with separately, he said, but must be dealt with through a community-level response and a comprehensive package of strategies designed to curb a patchwork of problems. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies had taken a new and long-term approach to the crisis in Southern Africa, which included a no exit strategy at the end of a one-year term.

Instead, the Federation was committed to a strategy that combined food security with integrated community care involving HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment, the provision of safe water and sanitation, health services and the promotion of economic self-reliance.

Furthermore, he noted that the impact of HIV/AIDS was not limited to Africa, but had highlighted the inhumane treatment accorded to intravenous drug users in Europe. In many places, people needing treatment were forced to the margin by government policies that forced them into situations where the transmission of HIV was most likely.

Yet, it was scientifically proven that only harm reduction strategies worked against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Needle and syringe exchanges, drug substitution and condom provision were vital components of the response to HIV/AIDS.