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Namibian AIDS Meeting Emphasizes Locally-led Programs

This past weekend, 1500 people from 55 countries attended an AIDS conference in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. The 2009 HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting focused on the role of local groups and organizations in developing treatment, care and prevention strategies.

Assistant US Global AIDS Coordinator Michele Moloney-Kitts, who attended the meeting, says, “The purpose of the implementers meeting is really to bring together people who actually implement HIV/AIDS programs from around the world to really share their experiences.”

Moloney-Kitts says participants did not discuss high-level science on HIV.

She says to be successful the programs should meet four major themes: sustainability, efficiency, effectiveness and prevention.

Local input and guidance essential

“What you find is that it’s really, really important for these programs to be locally owned and led. In other words, communities need to decide what’s going to work for them…. And they need to…take charge of the programs. That’s the only way you’re going to ensure long-term continuity, as well as that the programs are really relevant,” she says.

Determining what works

Some 345 abstracts were submitted at the conference after meeting tough standards.

“In other words, it’s not just me saying…I really like my program…but rather the people submit an abstract and then it is reviewed by a panel of experts to determine whether or not, in fact, this reaches a certain standard that could be replicated in other places. That the data is really good,” she says.

There was widespread concern at the Windhoek meeting that the global economic crisis could affect funding for AIDS-related programs.

Moloney-Kitts says, “There was a lot of discussion about how the HIV/AIDS community and programs continue to grow, expand and be effective in a time of not growing resources…about how very important it is that we partner well, that we really look to make sure we’re not wasting any resources.”

High marks for PEPFAR at meeting

The assistant US Global AIDS coordinator says reaction to PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) continues to be positive.

“PEPFAR is a really well appreciated program around the world. I think the US government has much to be proud of and people…recognize that. The US is the largest donor to HIV/AIDS.”

She says that includes bi-lateral funding and contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and malaria.