AIDS stunting southern Africa's prospects: Malawi president
"I am sad to note that statistics indicate that our region has the highest incidences of HIV infections," said the president.
"This is unacceptable and we need to move fast in solidarity to find lasting solutions and to try and fight the HIV pandemic."
Mutharika, opening a two-day parliamentary forum for the 14 member states of the Southern African Development Committee (SADC), said "the HIV and AIDS scourge is seriously retarding development in this part of Africa."
A report by UNAIDS published in 2006 shows that 63 percent of all adults and children with HIV live in sub-saharan Africa and adults and children newly infected with the virus rose to 2.8 million in 2006 from 2.4 million in 2004.
Mutharika said national parliaments have a "crucial role" to provide political leadership to fight AIDS.
"What we need is to agree on a common SADC strategy to collaborate programmes and projects dealing with this disease at all levels."
Mutharika called for a multi-faceted, comprehensive and holistic approach, saying the pandemic had created "huge social and economic implications ... even with access to free AIDS drugs and other medicines, you still need a good diet ... otherwise the medicine does not work."
Malawian parliamentary speaker Louis Chimango, said: "This is really war. We are at war against a pandemic that knows no boundary. Time is not on our side."
He said the disease had "contributed to the deepening levels of poverty in a region with one of the lowest levels of development indicators."
"Fighting HIV and AIDS is also fighting poverty itself," Chimango said.
The UN agency said last year that levels of the disease in the region were showing no sign of diminishing, and blamed a failure of leadership for the lack of progress.
Some 14.9 million in the region have AIDS, 38 percent of the worldwide total of 38.6 million people at the end of 2005.
SADC, which has 2,500 parliamentarians, groups Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Copyright (c) 2007 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 10/23/2007 09:31:06
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