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Significant progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but there is still a lot to be done, says head of UNAIDS - Cote d'Ivoire

By Mission of UN in Côte d'Ivoire
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ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, November 25, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Summary of UNOCI weekly press conference

Significant progress has been made in Côte d'Ivoire with regard to the treatment provided to persons living with HIV, as well as mother to child transmission, the Country Co-ordinator for United Nations HIVAIDS Programme (UNAIDS), Dr. Claire Mulanga said in Abidjan on Thursday.

However, a lot remains to be done in terms of changing people's behaviour and making the fight against AIDS multi-sectoral, she explained.

Speaking during the weekly press conference of the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (ONUCI), Dr. Mulanga also gave an update on the HIV/AIDS situation in Côte d'Ivoire, after presenting a new report by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. “More than 50% of persons eligible for antiretroviral treatment now have access to it, » said Dr. Mulanga.

Returning to the progress made in Côte d'Ivoire, the Country Co-ordinator said that 90, 000 persons were on ARV in 2011, compared to 40, 000 in 2009. “The other progress made in Côte d'Ivoire is 54% coverage in terms of the prevention of mother to child transmission,” she said.

She said however that a lot still remains to be done, noting that 50% of pregnant women, who are HIV positive, are receiving treatment. “We have a lot of problems: first of all concerning the attendance of pregnant women who come for ante-natal consultations. They have to be tested and those who are found to be HIV-positive must return for treatment. We lose some of these women but we at least are able to treat more than 40% of them, » explained Dr. Mulanga.

For her part, the head of UNOCI's HIV/AIDS Unit, Dorcella Bazahica, updated journalists on activities planned by United Nations agencies and the UN mission to commemorate World Aids Day, celebrated on 1 December every year. “We have organised a series of activities to sensitise personnel in the UN system and their families on this pandemic, as well as information stands so that everyone will have the opportunity to learn about the progress made in research on prevention, treatment and support in this domain,” said Mrs Bazahica.

Earlier, UNOCI's deputy spokesman, Kenneth Blackman, had outlined the activities of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Côte d'Ivoire, Bert Koenders. He also informed journalists about the activities of Mrs Margot Wallstrom, the Special Representative of the United Nations on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and the UN Independent Expert for Human Rights in Côte d'Ivoire, Doudou Diène.

The deputy spokesman also mentioned that UNOCI was continuing its information and sensitisation campaign to promote a peaceful electoral environment, as well as its training programme. In this connection, on 29 and 30 November, the UN mission and the National Press Council are organising a meeting with publishers of the Ivorian press, in Yamoussoukro, to discuss and reflect on the role of the press in organising successful elections on 11 December. He also said that UNOCI's Human Rights Division is organising a training session on human rights for 82 junior officers from the Forces republicaines de Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI) from 23 to 25 November in Abidjan.

Turning to the activities of the UN Force, the deputy spokesman said that peacekeepers had been providing security to convoys transporting non-sensitive electoral materials from Félix Houphouët Boigny to the Independent Electoral Commission's ware houses since 15 November.

With regard to its operational activities, the Force carried out 1,319 ground and air patrols during the past week. It also carried out mixed patrols with the FRCI in the west, concluded Mr. Blackman.