HIV/AIDS a focus of UNDP Administrator's visit to the DRC
"The HIV virus is a real pandemic which affects various groups of populations and all social classes. It is therefore very important that UNDP makes its contribution to the response to HIV in the DRC."
Miss Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, Kinshasa, DRC, 13th June 2009
On her first official visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, visited the walk-in HIV/AIDS Clinic run by Congolese NGO ACS AMO Congo (Actions Communautaires contre le Sida – Avenir Meilleur pour les Orphelins), in Kasavubu, in the populous heart of Kinshasa.
Miss Clark discussed with ACS AMO Congo staff and visited its services for HIV treatment for adults and children, voluntary counselling and testing for HIV, its pharmacy of drugs for biological follow-up and antiretroviral treatment as well as its laboratory facilities and equipment.
H.E. Mr. Auguste Mopipi Mukulumanya, DRC’s Health Minister took the opportunity of the visit to express the DRC Government’s satisfaction with the involvement and commitment of major partners, such as UNDP and the Global Fund, to the response to HIV in the country. He also stressed the fact that “the needs of [his] country are huge in terms of HIV prevention, HIV treatment and care and support to the people and families affected by this pandemic. Therefore [he] calls on UNDP and other donors to double their efforts in mobilising resources which are commensurate with DRC’s needs.”
Representing the National President of the Union of Congolese Organisations of People Living with HIV/AIDS (UCOP+), Eric Ngoy, Planning Officer, drew the Administrator’s attention to the need for UNDP to ensure sufficient and regular provision of antiretroviral drugs. He stated that “we really count on UNDP to ensure an uninterrupted supply of antiretroviral drugs.”
Artists joined Dr Henri Mukumbi, ACS AMO Congo’s National Director, in expressing their thanks to UNDP for the support it is giving to people living with HIV in the DRC. Mrs. Mbilia Bel, an internationally renowned Congolese singer, has experienced for a long period of time the stigma felt by HIV positive people or people being perceived as HIV positive. Her negative experience made her decide to lend her voice to UNDP’s fight against stigma towards people living with HIV. Another Congolese singer, Sandra Mbuyi, also thanked UNDP for its contribution to the response to HIV/AIDS and expressed her commitment to mobilising Christian communities for the care and support of people infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. She introduced the audience to a sensitisation song encouraging people of good will to support AIDS orphans.
After handling a symbolic kit of usual HIV drugs to the Kasavubu Centre’s medical staff, Miss Clark briefly recalled her experience of responding to HIV/AIDS in her capacity as Health Minister in New Zealand, her country of origin. There she supported the implementation of HIV prevention programmes designed for groups which were stigmatised for their perceived or actual relationship with the HIV pandemic: gay men, prostitutes and injecting drug users. "The HIV Virus is a real pandemic which affects various groups of populations and all social classes. It is therefore very important that UNDP makes its contribution to the response to HIV," she said.
She carried on adding that the daily prescription of drugs provided by UNDP / Global Fund, other partners and the Government has one single common objective: to give people living with HIV the opportunity to live longer than expected. She added, "Knowing that 10 percent only of people living with HIV in the DRC have access to antiretroviral treatment, UNDP supports the call made by the Health Minister so that a greater number of people can access the treatment and care that they need.”
Miss Clark concluded her speech by encouraging actors not to overlook HIV prevention, which involves condom promotion and responding to sexual violence. She stressed that "HIV is also transmitted through violence against women, which is why UNDP works to strengthen women’s status in order to better engage with the multiple problems that she is facing, such as sexual violence.”
In DRC, HIV prevalence is estimated at 4.1% with the 15- to 24-year-olds, who are part of the majority of the population, being the most vulnerable to infection. UNICEF estimates the number of orphans and other vulnerable children at 800 000, half of whom would be children affected by HIV/AIDS.
UNDP’s support to the response to HIV in the DRC includes a civil society development component, in order to help create a strong civil society working on HIV/AIDS. ACS AMO Congo, which is the main Congolese NGO specialising in HIV/AIDS work, features among UNDP / Global Fund Sub-Recipients. Founded in the early 1990’s by Dr. Henri Mukumbi, a former Red Cross professional, ACS AMO Congo carries out activities such as voluntary counseling and testing for HIV, medical and psychosocial care and support to people infected with or affected by HIV, educational support to AIDS orphans. Through its community volunteers - the VOCOSIs - ACS AMO Congo is involved in community sensitisation, stigma and discrimination work, support to treatment adherence and home visits to families affected by HIV. ACS AMO Congo also supports people and families affected by HIV in setting up and managing income generating activities with a view to self sufficiency.
With Global Fund resources, UNDP funds close to 80% of ACS AMO Congo’s operating budget. Thanks to these resources and other donor funding, ACS AMO Congo has managed to set up 14 walk-in HIV/AIDS Clinics and 22 HIV Counselling and Testing Centres. At the Kasavubu Centre only, more than 4,000 adults and 140 children living with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment. However, these figures cannot hide the fact that another 1,700 people living with HIV are awaiting antiretroviral treatment at the same Centre. This is a reflection of the national situation where only 32,000 out of the 340,000 people living with HIV and eligible for antiretroviral treatment are actually accessing it.
In such a context, UNDP, with Global Fund resources, provides close to 90% of the supply of antiretroviral treatment at national level. Faced with the pressure of demand and having limited means, UNDP and its Sub-Recipients, such as AMO Congo, are compelled to subject antiretroviral treatment decisions on available stocks of antiretroviral drugs.
Therefore, UNDP DRC constantly advocates for increased and sustained resource mobilisation. A first response to UNDP DRC’s concerns is the recent Global Fund decision to approve a 200 million HIV/AIDS Grant for the DRC through its 8th Round of call for proposals. With this new grant, DRC’s Government and UNDP, as Principal Recipient of the Global Fund in the DRC, hope to significantly increase the number of eligible HIV positive people who are on antiretroviral treatment while having more resources to invest in preventing new HIV infections. Efficient prevention activities would indeed reduce the need for antiretroviral treatment. In addition, UNDP’s response to HIV in the DRC includes a policy response primarily through:
1) capacity building and strengthening of national leadership, coordination and resource mobilization in the fight against the HIV pandemic in the DRC;
2) support to policy formulation in the context of the national Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper on the fight against HIV through its 5 thematic pillars; and
3) support to the Multisectorial National AIDS Programme (in French, Programme National Multisectoriel de Lutte contre le SIDA, PNMLS) focusing on three critical areas: drafting of National HIV Strategic Plan for 2009-2013; strengthening of coordination capacity and design of a National HIV Monitoring & Evaluation Plan.