The presidents of Rwanda, Burundi, and Mozambique are trying to mobilize greater public involvement to fight against the disease in their countries. They’re concerned about the mounting toll HIV/AIDS is taking on African countries and resources. With support from the United Nations Children’s Fund, the three leaders and their wives have been speaking at highly visible public events in order to lead by example and enlist resourceful workers, donors, and caretakers in national treatment programs. These efforts are part of the new partnership campaign for children affected by HIV/AIDS being coordinated by UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. As international organizations get ready to mark the annual observance of World AIDS Day on December 1st, statistics show that HIV/AIDS has struck more than 16 % of Mozambique’s population. The country has adopted a new measure to introduce information on HIV prevention into its primary schools. Burundi president Pierre Nkurunziza and Rwandan president Paul Kagame have pledged access to antiretroviral drugs for children, transportation to treatment centers, and free primary education for child AIDS victims. The African leaders are responding to data that shows less than five % of children in need of antiretroviral drugs have access to them, and even fewer have access to inexpensive antibiotic medicine for treating common infections that kill children already weakened by HIV. Eighty-five percent of all children living with AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa, and Africa is home to more than 12 million of the 15 million children worldwide who have been orphaned by AIDS. Although only about 13% of Rwandan children who need antiretrovirals actually get them, the country has in a very short time more than tripled its access to the drugs to an estimated 1,000 children, up from 300 only a few months ago.
Cyriaque Ngoboka is Information Communication Officer in Rwanda for UNICEF. He tells English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that it’s important for Africa’s leaders to set examples for others by speaking about the HIV/AIDS problem often and forcefully, since they command the authority needed to raise vital funds for antiretroviral drugs for children.