Becky Heads OAFLA

From left: Michel Sibidé, Rebecca Akufo-Addo and Haile Girmey, UNAIDS Country Director for Ghana, after the meeting

The First Lady of Ghana, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has taken over the leadership of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) after a unanimous decision by members of the group.

Per her appointment, Mrs Akufo-Addo becomes the Chairperson of OAFLA and Premiere HIV-AIDS Ambassador for Ghana to champion the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) and prevention of HIV among adolescent girls and young women.

Conferring the new position on the first lady during a courtesy call, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the UNAIDS, congratulated Mrs Akufo-Addo and assured her of the support of the UN agency as far as the execution of her functions are concerned.

“I congratulate you for being the chairperson of OAFLA and I was in Addis Ababa and the first ladies wanted you to continue the leadership role,” he said.

Mr Sidibé explained UNAIDS’ desire to continue the HIV agenda with Mrs Akufo-Addo, especially in the area of prevention of adolescent and mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

He encouraged her to advocate the establishment of the new HIV fund in Ghana, as well as the commitment of leading women and the private sector to contribute towards its success.

The UNAIDs executive director indicated that the country has recorded tremendous improvements in HIV reduction and prevention of new infections, however, adolescent HIV continues to be a bane on the programme.

“One of the challenging areas is adolescent HIV because of three factors; they are not tested so they do not know their status, when they know their status they are not put on treatment and those on treatment do not continue,” he said.

Mr Sidibé further added that the programme recorded 56,000 adolescent deaths worldwide due to HIV/AIDS last year and 9,000 new adolescent HIV infections every week worldwide.

“I think that is a major challenge for us and I will really ask you to become our voice for that one. I think that is an area where we don’t have a lot of first ladies engaged in,” he suggested.

He said the first lady leading the prevention of adolescent HIV and treatment would gunner great benefits to the country with regards to the overall advancement of women’s health and empowerment.

“We want to see you playing this role because it will help us solve other issue like violence against women, teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions all those issues we can link it to HIV and cervical cancer which is also a major challenge because of low vaccine coverage,” he added.

Mr Sidibé further asked the first lady to lead the advocacy for prevention, care and access to HIV/AIDS services for young women and girls in Africa, as well as use her influence to further the UNAIDS West African Emergency Catch Up Plan.

The first lady, on her part, expressed her gratitude for the honour done her and assured the delegation of her readiness and commitment to the new role in the light of the tremendous impact HIV/AIDS-related issues have on the socio-economic well-being of Africans.

The first lady also emphasized that she would continue her fight against malaria through her Infantile Malarial Prevention Foundation which has been growing for the past 12 years.

She expressed her keen interest in health of children and women and promised to help and do what is necessary to promote the agenda of UNAIDS.

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri