Gaborone - A group of prominent former African leaders pushing for an Aids-free generation have expressed concern that lack of funding for fighting HIV/Aids is hampering progress in the fight against the pandemic.
Chairperson of the Champions for an Aids-free Generation, former Botswana President Festus Mogae said that raising funds other than those provided by the United States of America President’s Emergency Programme for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) was a major concern.
The Champions for an Aids Free Generation in Africa comprises several former African leaders.
Members of the group who visited Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi recently were Mogae, ex-Malawian President Joyce Banda, former Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, ex-South African leader Kgalema Motlanthe, former Nigerian leader, Olusegun Obasanjo, former Malian President, Alpha Konare, former Ugandan Vice-President Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, Miriam Were, ex-chairperson of the Kenyan National Aids Control Council, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Edwin Cameron.
Mogae said the Champion’s secretariat was placing emphasis on pooling resources through a resource mobilisation plan which was aimed at sustaining the work and impact of the Champions.
The Champions, Mogae said, were using the resource mobilisation to engage with potential partners to seek monetary and other forms of support.
“Two new partners are now on board. HEARD, - a leading institution in interdisciplinary health research and education in Africa, will provide mostly pro-bono support in 2019 on development documents and articles on leaving no one behind as well as financing,” said Mogae.
He also revealed that the Royal Commonwealth Society, an extensive network of societies and individuals that spread the influence of and global connectivity of the Commonwealth, will partner with the Champions through cost sharing engagements to mobilise national and regional leadership sectors. They have also committed to mobilising resources on behalf of the Champions’ programme.
Another challenge that the Champions were facing related to scheduling of country visits since this involves organising engagements with top leadership of targeted countries. The Champions had resolved this issue through increasing the entry points for a country visit by using other sectors of leadership such as parliamentarians and Ministers of Health, to broker the visits with top leadership.
Mogae said that four of the Champions had been busy with African Union and United Nations engagements and had therefore been unable to fully avail themselves to the organisation.
“Additional commitments of four of the Champions with the African Union and the UN to provide mediation in politically unstable sub-regions on the continent are limiting their availability,” he said.
Mogae said the Champions for an Aids-Free Generation in Africa had been discussing with former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, with a view to bringing her on board.
“There is a pressing need to bring Champions on board and discussions have been held with HE Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. A formal response is pending,” Mogae said during a high-level political dialogue on HIV/Aids in Nairobi, Kenya, recently.
The Champions for an Aids-Free Generation are a distinguished group of former presidents and influential African leaders committed to an Aids-free generation.
Individually and collectively, the Champions rally and support regional leaders towards ending the Aids epidemic as a public health threat.
The Champions have addressed regional meetings of heads of state, continental and international Aids conferences as well as lent their voices to advocacy and promotional materials. Through their work, the Champions have demonstrated remarkable commitment to ending the epidemic in Africa.
Mogae said the landscape of Africa’s response to HIV had radically changed in recent years and the issues that required the Champions’ unique experience were becoming more challenging. Therefore, he said, the Champions were now needed more than ever to achieve UNAIDS’ Fast-Track targets by 2020, adding that achieving these targets were key to ending Aids as a public health threat by 2030.