Fighting AIDS: Cameroon's Efforts Recognised

By Irene Morikang, Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé), 18 June 2003

Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr Peter Piot, is in the country for a three-day official visit.

The Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Assistant-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr Peter Piot, is in Cameroon. He arrived in the country yesterday evening for a three day official visit. The ace scientist, co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, who has headed UNAIDS since its creation in 1995, is scheduled to visit some structures involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, hold a series of meetings with government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and those at the forefront of the battle against HIV/AIDS in the country. Leon H. Sullivan Summit

The present trip, the first of its kind to the country since Dr Peter Piot assumed the prestigious office, can be considered a mark of recognition of the efforts made by the Head of State, Paul Biya, the Cameroonian government, the First Lady and people of Cameroon as a whole, to curb the spread of the HIV virus and care for AIDS patients. For the past couple of years, Cameroon has intensified the fight against HIV/AIDS. There now exits a coherent national strategy to fight the disease. Today, virtually every sector of national life is actively involved in the fight.

Similarly, several non-governmental organisations and people have distinguished themselves in the struggle. The numerous actions carried out by the First Lady, Mrs Chantal Biya, in the domain cannot go unnoticed. Tremendous efforts are being made to curb mother to child transmission of the HIV virus at the Mother and Child Centre of the Chantal Biya Foundation in Yaounde. Her philanthropic association, the Circle of Friends of Cameroon (CERAC), has also distinguished itself through the numerous actions against the killer disease. It has rehabilitated four HIV/AIDS prevention and voluntary screening centres and trained youth peer educators, among other actions. Mrs Chantal Biya's activities in fighting HIV/AIDS took an international dimension last year with the creation of the African Synergy against AIDS and Suffering through her initiative.

The visit of the Belgian born scientists will certainly strengthen the relationship between Cameroon and UNAIDS as well as pave the way for greater collaboration with the structure. In effect, under the leadership of Dr Piot, UNAIDS has become the chief advocate for worldwide action against AIDS, with the global mission of leading, strengthening and supporting an expanded response to the epidemic. It has brought together eight organisations of the United Nations system around a common agenda on AIDS. There is therefore hope that, this time, projects sent in by Cameroon, might be selected for financing by the Global Fund Against AIDS, TB and Malaria. Dr Piot can also decide to extend his research activities to Cameroon. After all, he has launched and expanded a series of collaborative projects in Africa, such as the AIDS research collaboration with the Universities of Nairobi, Kenya, and Projet SIDA in Kinshasa, Zaire.