Spurred on by the recent Ebola outbreak, an African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is being established this year to effectively respond to major epidemics. The need for an African CDC was recognised at the African Union Special Summit on HIV and AIDS, TB, and Malaria in Abuja in July 2013.

Like the US CDC, which was created 70 years ago in response to a malaria epidemic, the Addis Ababa-based facility, will tackle various health threats especially infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and Ebola. It will help African countries share information more effectively and build capacity to prevent, detect and treat epidemic outbreaks collectively.

The African Union (AU) is collaborating with the US CDC to establish the center and a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed in Washington DC on 13 April, between AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and US secretary of state John Kerry.

US support for HIV response in Africa

The signing of the agreement precedes President Barack Obama’s visit to Africa in July. In August 2006, as a newly elected senator, Obama visited South Africa, Chad and Kenya, where he and wife Michelle took a public HIV test to counter stigma.

The new center will offer HIV services for vulnerable African populations in line with the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). It will also provide a forum to address the AU Roadmap on shared Responsibility and Global Solidarity, which was adopted in 2013. “For HIV-infected populations in Africa, the CDC will provide treatment to the most susceptible people. It will also prioritise and achieve antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage of at least 90 per cent amongst HIV-infected adults with a very weak immune system,” said Allan Ragi from the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO).

Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa is the continent most affected by HIV and combatting the disease is critical as it poses a great threat to African socio-economic development, peace and security.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region most heavily affected by HIV with 25 million adults and children living with HIV (Avert). And the disease remains particularly acute among women and children in rural areas, where access and uptake of ART is very poor due to issues such as lack of transport to get to health facilities, cultural beliefs and stigma.

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