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UNITAID To Buttress Fight Against HIV/AIDS, TB 

By Sixtus Mbom

The international NGO, UNITAID, has held its first In Country consultative meeting with some local NGO’s to review its activities in order to strengthen the effectiveness and sustainability of its fight against HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in Cameroon.

The meeting, which was attended by two administrators from the Secretariat of the NGO in Geneva, took place in Yaounde, August 23, under the auspices of the Minister of Health, Andre Mama Fouda. The Minister of Health said Government is striving to make medicines available to the masses at the cheapest possible prices and is willing to support all efforts geared towards the same goal.

He said it is for this reason that Government is backing all the actions of UNITAID in Cameroon.
Mama Fouda cited the presence of the Minister of Finance at the meeting as an indication that Government is willing to support UNITAID initiatives in Cameroon. The Minister said UNITAID has invested circa FCFA 8.5 billion for the fight against AIDS and tuberculosis within its five years of existence in Cameroon.

UNITAID Technical Officer, Gelise McCullough, disclosed that formerly there were no drugs for kids living with HIV/AIDS because the demand for them was low and pharmaceutical companies produce medicine strictly on business terms. “It is thanks to funds raised by UNITAID that the required drugs have been produced for these children,” she said.

UNITAID Project Manager, Dr. Esther Tallah, also the Country Director for the Consortium-Coalition against Malaria, said the organisation has provided treatment to over 4,000 children living with AIDS in Cameroon as well as provided second level treatment to over 4,000 adults.
She also said UNITAID has been working in collaboration with UNICEF in Cameroon to curb mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus.

Dr. Tallah affirmed that the innovative funding system applied by UNITAID has been helpful to Cameroonians and reiterated the importance of the meeting. “It is through this meeting that we will be able to ensure that the aid provided suits the specific needs of the target population” she said.

Gelise, on her part, said Cameroon has submitted projects on malaria that were not adopted, and promised that UNITAID will be funding the fight against malaria in the country in a near future. UNITAID was established in 2006 to support existing efforts to achieve the 2015 UN Millennium Development Goals, especially Goal 6 on combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

UNITAID’s goal is to help increase access to treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis for people in developing countries by using market leverage to lower prices and increase availability of appropriate high-quality drugs and diagnostics. It collects funds through the charging of an air tax on flight tickets. This is an extra tax on every flight ticket in member countries which is collected to fund the activities of UNITAID.

Countries in the European Union charge one Euro on every ticket for internal flights and 40 Euros on international flights. Other countries tax $1 US on national flights.The Minister of Health, earlier in his opening speech, stated that Cameroon will soon introduce the air tax.
 

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