China-Africa cooperation can solve worst health problems
                 English.news.cn | 2013-08-16 21:35:17 | Editor: Zhu Ningzhu

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe gives an exclusive interview to Xinhua News Agency in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 16, 2013. (Xinhua/Li Xin)

by Wu Xia, Chen Yong

BEIJING, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- China-Africa cooperation on health could benefit millions of Africans and solve some of the toughest problems in human history, a senior UN official said here Friday.

"China and Africa have a long history of cooperation on health, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of Chinese medical teams being sent to Africa," Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), told Xinhua in an interview.

"I myself clearly remember when a Chinese health team came to my hometown in Mali when I was a child," Sidibe said.

"I believe China-Africa cooperation on health has the potential to bring huge benefits to the lives of millions of Africans, and solve some of the most intractable health problems in human history," he said.

The UNAIDS chief lauded China's experience, technical know-how and competitiveness in the health sector, saying it could boost progress in Africa. China could work with Africa to develop simple, low-cost and easy-to-use tools and medical equipment, and promote the African pharmaceutical industry, he said.

In addition to machines and products, China's long-standing tradition of barefoot doctors also provided valuable experience for Africa, which sought to train at least one million community health workers, Sidibe said.

A sound cooperative partnership was mutually beneficial, Sidibe said, with China reaping financial gains, generating public good and learning from Africa's experience, especially in combating HIV/AIDS.

"Africa has many lessons for China," he said, citing Africa's success in boosting treatment access in remote, rural and minority areas, simplifying anti-retroviral treatment procedures and engaging civil society in fighting HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS A CENTRAL PRIORITY

The head of UNAIDS stressed the priority of HIV/AIDS in China-Africa cooperation on health, as the deadly epidemic remained one of the most serious health threats in Africa.

In many African countries, HIV prevalence is above 25 percent, and over a million people die from AIDS-related causes every year, according to the UN official.

"In my view, any collaboration on health in Africa must treat HIV as a central priority," he said, adding the response to HIV could serve as a pathfinder for other areas of health cooperation, such as malaria, schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, and mother and child health.

"And China's contribution to this effort will be decisive," he said.

UNAIDS has been pushing to have 15 million people under anti-retroviral treatment by 2015 and Sidibe said the HIV/AIDS movement was not only a medical, but a development and human rights issue.

"It's not just about pills," he said. "It is about restoring the dignity of people," as effective HIV treatment would enable patients to go to work and take care of children.

NEW ERA OF PARTNERSHIP

"This partnership is already 50 years old," Sidibe said of China-Africa cooperation on health, noting health workers moving from China to Africa had helped expand the service delivery system in Africa, especially to the poor.

"But what is more important is about a new era of partnership," he said.

According to the UN official, a new partnership is expected to emerge between a transforming Africa and a growing China based on shared responsibility, shared values and the principle of mutual accountability.

"I personally feel this week's discussion is very productive about that," Sidibe said, referring to the Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Development held here Friday.

At the forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to continue to promote cooperation with African countries on health and development initiatives.  (Fang Yunyi contributed to the story.)

Related:

China, Africa to boost health care cooperation

BEIJING, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Health authorities from China and African countries on Friday agreed to make joint efforts to prevent infectious diseases.

According to a "Beijing Declaration" released by Sino-Africa health officials after a ministerial-level meeting on health cooperation held in Beijing, the two sides have agreed to promote cooperation in preventing malaria, parasitic infections and AIDS. Full story

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