Thousands Sign Petition for Action on HIV/AIDS and Malaria

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Initiative demands free malaria prevention and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.

If we collaborated more and competed less, we could work toward more innovative solutions that tackle multiple diseases. Campaigns like one I recently took part in offer potential solutions.

Following the 20th annual World AIDS Day, global health activists gathered for the International Conference on AIDS and STDs in Africa (ICASA) announced today that nearly 6,000 people from 163 countries signed a petition demanding insecticide-treated nets for malaria prevention for people living with HIV/AIDS, along with other preventative interventions and effective treatment, as an additional part of their health care. Along with the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, more than 80 organizations and networks of people living with HIV/AIDS also offered their collective support, including the 33 million-member Global Network of Positive People (GNP+) and the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW) regional African networks.

"To those of us in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially people like me who are already HIV positive, know that many people living with HIV in our countries are dying from malaria. It is critical that the funding and planning for people with HIV include provisions for malaria protection--and that is why this petition is so important," said Carol Maimbolwa Nyirenda, Alternate Board Member of the Communities Delegation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Board Member of the Communities Delegation of UNITAID. According to the latest research, interactions of HIV/AIDS and malaria infections adversely impact both diseases - malaria makes HIV worse and HIV makes malaria worse

The petition draws much-needed attention to the problem of co-infection with HIV/AIDS and malaria, which are the most prevalent infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. Supporters are urging Ministers of Health in malaria endemic countries, heads of agencies of bilateral and multilateral initiatives, donors and an array of other entities to honor their commitments and act jointly on the two diseases. Thousands of activists, academics, implementers, physicians, private sector partners, and people living with HIV/AIDS joined the call for action at the XVII International AIDS conference in Mexico City, prompting a continued effort concluding Saturday in Dakar.

"Many of the four million lives lost to malaria and HIV/AIDS every year could be saved by more effective integrated prevention and treatment programs," said Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. "If we collaborated more and competed less, we could work toward more innovative solutions that tackle multiple diseases. Campaigns like one I recently took part in offer potential solutions."

Chaka Chaka was among the hundreds of volunteers engaged in a pioneering integrated program last month in rural Kenya. Almost 50,000 people - or more than 80% of the targeted population in the selected region - were tested for HIV in only one week. Tools and techniques for protection from malaria, HIV and water-borne diseases were offered as an encouragement to every participant, while helping move communities beyond the stigmas often associated with testing. The Swiss-based company Vestergaard Frandsen, in partnership with the Kenyan government and civil society organizations, designed and sponsored the campaign and offered their early support to the HIV/malaria petition.

"My company supports this petition because it will draw global attention to the needs of people living with HIV and AIDS to be protected from malaria," said Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, CEO of Vestergaard Frandsen. "More importantly, integrated efforts help save lives and reduce suffering among some of the most vulnerable people in the world. I'd like to thank everyone who has supported this petition for adding their names to the growing chorus of people demanding that everyone living with HIV/AIDS also be protected from malaria."

Studies estimate that HIV may increase the clinical malaria by 28% and mortality by 114% in certain countries, while also confirming that HIV-infected adults in malaria endemic areas are at increased risk. Although the consequences of co-infection can be severe for anyone, malaria and HIV interactions are particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children.

The complexity of co-infection demands effective management and strengthening of health care delivery systems. Multiple disease approaches are life-saving, efficient and offer an opportunity to ease the burden on community health care workers and strained health infrastructure.

"It is vital that the HIV/AIDS and malaria communities collaborate to ensure protection and treatment for all who are suffering from these two diseases and protect those who are at risk, like young children and pregnant women," said Prof. Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, during ICASA. "By forming strong partnerships and joining forces on critical health issues, we can make a huge difference in the lives of millions."

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