- United Nations Deputy Secretary General has pleaded with HIV and AIDS experts to focus their efforts on studies contributing in fight against deadly disease in Africa.
Addressing social and economic dimensions of HIV/AIDS in Africa conference held in New York yesterday, Ms Asha Rose Migiro said epidemic strikes at the core of human development, killing economically productive population.
"Epidemic systematically deprives sectors, such as health, education and agriculture, of skilled workers, thus reducing overall national productivity," she said.
According to Ms Migiro, in sub Saharan Africa in 2007 1.6 million people died from AIDS related diseases and over 22 million are living with HIV, saying the pandemic is eroding gains of economic development across continent.
"Many of these sectors heavily impacted are already struggling, and multiplied effect is crippling," she added.
Ms Migiro encouraged academics attending meeting to draw conclusions from their research, that would be useful for UN and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in Africa to strengthen their work on ground and help local governments to plan.
She said research efforts should recommend policies for inclusion in national strategies to address the epidemic, noting that impact of HIV varies in African continent.
She emphasised that greater efforts should be made to gather information on exact nature of disease in a particular area.
"Use local universities and research centers to systematically document information, based in Africa, are those working in Africa and living in affected communities. This will improve quality of information available," she said.
Ms Migiro also used opportunity to speak with HIV/AIDS scholars to draw attention to role stigma plays in preventing people affected by the disease from seeking treatment.
She argued that stigma is a significant factor allowing the epidemic to continue devastating societies across the globe. "Stigma helps make AIDS a silent killer because people fear the social disgrace of speaking openly about the disease, or taking easily available precautions," she said.
The HIV/AIDS meeting is the third symposium in UNU-Cornell "Africa Series", which will help inform high-level meeting on Africa's development needs to be held during the General Assembly, starting later this month.
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