World Experts Focus on HIV Prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa at Wilton Park Meeting

Namibian First Lady Monica Geingos, Dr. Bernard Haufiku, Minister of Health and Social Services, and HIV experts from across Sub-Saharan Africa met March 7 to 9 in Swakopmund, Namibia, on ‘Building a stronger HIV prevention response in Sub-Saharan Africa‘ Wilton Park, an executive agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, held the three-day meeting which included top government officials, leading clinicians and researchers, civil society advocates and program implementers.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly 70 percent of all people living with HIV and remains the region most affected by HIV globally. Women and young people make up the majority of new infections in the region, while other key populations – including men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers – account for roughly one in five new infections. Namibia has demonstrated extraordinary political and financial commitment to tackle HIV, which has translated into substantial declines in national incidence and prevalence.

First Lady Monica Geingos, UNAIDS Special Advocate for Young Women and Adolescent Girls, spoke passionately about the need to find the places and language to engage with those at risk of HIV, the ‘BE FREE’ campaign in Namibia, and the success of developing smart partnerships for greater impact.

Participants discussed what HIV prevention efforts work best, and how these can be expanded and funded across Sub-Saharan Africa to best meet the needs of diverse groups at high risk. The group identified opportunities to deliver prevention to key populations, to overcome existing barriers and to ensure prevention can be prioritized while treatment for HIV continues to be scaled-up.

“Expanding the reach of HIV prevention in sub-Saharan Africa is essential to global efforts to end the epidemic,” said former Namibian Health Minister, Dr. Richard Kamwi. “Just as our region was the birthplace of the treatment access movement, so it can be the catalyst for the large-scale delivery of HIV prevention.”

Dr. Kamwi co-chaired the meeting with Sir Richard Feachem, director of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Feachem is the founding executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

“I hope this meeting provides a much-needed regional forum to learn and share how health systems and organisations are using novel approaches to successfully bring HIV prevention to those who suffer the highest disease burden due to structural barriers including stigma, discrimination and criminalization, through meaningful participation and engagement,” said Daughtie Ogutu, executive director of the African Sex Workers Alliance. “We will never end HIV without dramatically escalating efforts to preventing HIV among Key Populations”.

This Wilton Park event was organized in partnership with the Global Health Group at UCSF’s Global Health Sciences, and Gilead Sciences, Inc.