The United Nations on Tuesday called on all Africans including governments, communities, people living with HIV/AIDS and individuals to take ownership and unite in response to the deadly disease in Africa.
In a statement issued at the ongoing 14th International Conference on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) in Abuja, Nigeria, the UN Program on HIV/AIDS ( UNAIDS) said that AIDS was rapidly taking its toll on African families - the backbone and safety net in African society.
It said in the joint statement issued with UN children's agency UNICEF that sub-Saharan Africa with just over 10 percent of the world's population is home to more than 60 percent of all people living with HIV or just more than 25 million people.
"In 2005, 3.2 million people were newly infected with HIV, representing 64 percent of all new infections globally, while 2.4 million adults and children died of AIDS," the UNAIDS said, adding that about 12.3 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS.
It said that increasing new infections and deaths related to AIDS were undermining the capacity of African families to cope as it depletes their economic and physical resources resulting in deepened poverty and increased food insecurity.
The UNAIDS said that in sub-Saharan Africa women were particularly affected by the epidemic with 77 percent of all women living with HIV globally being found in the region.
In some countries, up to eight out of ten young people between the ages of 15 - 24 living with HIV are young women, it added.
To ensure adequate action for women and girls, it said that AIDS programs should focus on those aspects that enable women and girls to avoid infection and obtain treatment.
This, according to it, include education, knowledge about HIV/ AIDS, protection from violence and economic security, adding that programs and services targeting male attitudes, sexual and reproductive health also needed to be increased.
The UNAIDS said that in 2005 AIDS killed 570,000 children mostly through mother-to-child transmission.
"While mother-to-child transmission has been virtually eliminated from industrialized countries and service coverage is improving in many other places, it still falls far short in most of sub-Saharan Africa," it said.
The UNAIDS noted that in 30 African countries with the largest HIV prevalence, only 5 percent of pregnant women are able to access drugs that prevent transmission of HIV to their children.
"Failure to prevent new infections and to provide treatment to those in need will result in further increased in the number of children left vulnerable and orphaned by AIDS," it said.
In his comment, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Rima Salah said that while children were the central part of every family, they were not at the center of the international HIV/AIDS response.
"Only a tiny fraction of infected children is receiving treatment and many die before even reaching their first birthday," he said in the joint statement.
"In sub-Saharan Africa, millions of children who have lost their parents to AIDS are missing out on a childhood, are missing out on an education and are missing out on live-saving medicines. We must unite against AIDS in Africa and accelerate our response to help African families," he said.
The theme of the six-day ICASA which was officially declared opened on Sunday is "HIV/AIDS and the Family."