HIV/Aids,TB and Malaria largest contributors of deaths in SADC

WINDHOEK: The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region continues to experience a huge burden of communicable diseases HIV/Aids, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.

These diseases remain the largest contributors to morbidity and mortality across the region, said SADC Ministers of Health and people responsible for the running of HIV/Aids health matters during a meeting held at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe on Thursday.

Namibia’s Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Nchabi Kamwi represented the country at the meeting.

A media statement from the SADC Secretariat availed to Nampa here on Saturday said the meeting noted that declines in new HIV infections of 26 per cent and above were recorded in eight SADC Member States between the period 2001 to 2011.

It said that Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe recorded declines in new HIV infections among adults of between 26 per cent and 49 per cent.

Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland recorded declines in new HIV infections above 50 per cent during the same period.

These eight countries are thus likely to reach the 50 per cent reduction target by the end of 2015.

However, the TB burden still remains high in the member states, but significant achievements have been made in diagnostic and provision of TB treatment.

The SADC Health Ministers also took note of the rising burden of non-communicable diseases and the need to address them with no further delays.

The ministers commended the region for the use of information communication technology (ICT) in health communication, such as print and electronic media which influences behaviour change, thereby contributing to the realisation of positive health outcomes.

Delegates also praised the SADC member states for measures taken to prevent the spread of Ebola in the region, including the containment and control of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which was declared Ebola free recently.

In this regard, the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the implementation of internationally-advocated state of preparedness and response guidelines for Ebola, and have continued to adhere to international health regulations.

They reiterated their continued logistical, technical and financial support to Ebola-affected countries in West Africa.

The main purpose of the joint meeting of the SADC Health Ministers was to review progress in the implementation of regional policies and programmes for addressing public health issues in the region within the context of SADC Protocol on Health and the Maseru Declaration on HIV/Aids.

The health ministers also agreed on common positions to be adopted at international fora, namely the African Union (AU) and World Health Organisation (WHO).

The ministers also participated in the commemoration of SADC Malaria Day, which was held on Friday at the Monde Primary School in Victoria Falls under the theme “Strong partnerships sustain gains in malaria control” and slogan “Combining efforts – Key to success”.

The chairperson of the SADC Ministers of Health and Ministers responsible for HIV/Aids Health Matters, and Minister of Health and Child Care of Zimbabwe, Dr David Parirenyatwa officially opened the meeting.

Parirenyatwa outlined achievements and challenges recorded by the region in the fight against major communicable, emerging and re-emerging diseases, especially the Ebola virus.

During the meeting, the health ministers also received status reports from SADC member states on the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Health with special focus on the agreed priorities in the areas of Disease Control; Maternal, Newborn and Reproductive Health; Health Education and Communication; and Health Systems Strengthening.

The ministers further reviewed and approved key strategic documents that will guide SADC’s public health priorities and for regional co-operation and integration.

In this regard, the ministers approved the SADC Code and Action Plan of Conduct on TB in the Mining Sector; Minimum Standards for the Integration of Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV in SADC; and Framework of Action for Sustainable Financing of Health and HIV in SADC Region.

Another key document approved includes the establishment of Public-Private Regional Partnership in complimentary health financing.

The ministers also endorsed the World Health Organisation (WHO) AFRO decision of strengthening health care systems in the continent through universal health coverage and further regard universal health coverage as a flagship of health care reform.