Heads of state of 14 southern African countries will meet in Lesotho on July 4 to seek a joint plan to combat the AIDS epidemic that is killing millions in the region and crushing economic growth, officials announced last week. The 14 countries, all members of the Southern African Development Community, are all hard hit by HIV/AIDS, and none has successfully reduced the incidence of infection. In Botswana, the adult HIV prevalence rate is nearly 40%. The Lesotho summit will be the first time the issue has been discussed by so many of the region's leaders.
"We have to come together to find a regional approach," said Esther Kanaimba, spokeswoman for the SADC secretariat in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. "Despite all our efforts, the disease is not abating. By sharing our experiences in care, treatment, and education about HIV/AIDS, we might be able to come up with a successful common strategy."
The 14 countries participating in the summit include Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.