From: Reuters
Published May 14, 2008 02:05 PM

World Bank shifts HIV/AIDS focus in Africa

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank on Wednesday unveiled a four-year strategy to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa that shifts focus from emergency response to long-term development.

The change was made possible after billions of dollars in grant funding became available from the U.S. Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Geneva-based Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria which alone has committed $10.7 billion to fight disease.

The World Bank has sent $1.5 billion to more than 30 African countries to fight HIV/AIDS since 2000.

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"With AIDS the largest single cause of premature death in Africa, we can't talk about better, lasting development there without also committing to stay the course in the long-term fight against the disease," said Elizabeth Lule, manager of the World Bank's AIDS Team for Africa.

The World Bank said it would concentrate on advising countries on how best to manage the new international funding, and at the local level try to help governments take a long-term view on how to best tackle the disease.

It plans to help governments integrate HIV/AIDS services with those for pregnant mothers and children and services which fight malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases.

New HIV/AIDS infections in Africa are rising. For every person starting HIV drug treatment, which can keep patients healthy for years and prevent the development of full-blown AIDS, another four to six are newly infected, the World Bank said.

However statistics do indicate falling prevalence in Kenya, parts of Botswana, the Ivory Coast, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The bank said about 22.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were HIV positive. Some private firms are recruiting two workers for every job to replace those who die.

It said more than 60 percent of people living with HIV in Africa are women, and that young women are six times more likely to be HIV positive than young men. Also, an estimated 11.4 million children under age 18 have lost at least one parent to the disease.

"The World Bank reaffirms its long-term commitment to assist partner countries achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by integrating AIDS into their national development agendas, scaling up responses, and strengthening national systems," said Peter Piot of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

(Editing by Alan Elsner)

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