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UKZN vice-chancellor appointed chair of Frontline AIDS Board of Trustees

Professor Nana Poku, Chair of the Frontline AIDS Board of Trustees. Photo by: Andile Ndlovu
Professor Nana Poku, Chair of the Frontline AIDS Board of Trustees. Photo by: Andile Ndlovu

UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku, continues to put the university on the map following his appointment as Chair of the Frontline AIDS Board of Trustees, effective June 2021.

Frontline AIDS is the world’s leading global partnership of more than 60 locally-based civil society organisations working in almost 100 countries around the world to curb the spread and impact of HIV and Aids. Founded in 1993 under the banner of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance to work with community groups in the countries most affected by the global Aids epidemic, the partnership relaunched in 2019 as Frontline AIDS to revive awareness of its mission and attract renewed support. In the first year of its relaunch, it provided more than six million marginalised and vulnerable people with sexual and reproductive health and rights interventions; reached more than five million marginalised and other vulnerable people with HIV prevention programmes; and delivered training to 999 community organisations.

Its programme of work includes interventions on gender equality; human rights; HIV prevention, treatment and care; sexual and reproductive health and rights; supporting adolescents and young people; harm reduction; and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Frontline AIDS, it has "continually adapted its approach, looking for innovative ways to break down the barriers that marginalise people living with, or at risk of acquiring, HIV all with one goal in mind: a future free from Aids for everyone, everywhere".

Poku said he was delighted to have joined Frontline AIDS as Chair of its Board of Trustees, adding that now more than ever, the world needs re-energised and refocused commitment to eliminating Aids as a global public health threat. "I am confident that the board can help to consolidate Frontline AIDS’s already considerable standing and achievements, enlarge its strategic vision, maximise its impacts and inspire others. I am proud to have joined this outstanding organisation and look forward to the work we will undertake together," he said.

Respected as one of the world’s foremost experts on the political economy of Africa’s HIV and Aids epidemic, Poku was tasked to lead the United Nations Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (CHGA) 2003-2006, at the behest of then Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan. The commission’s work led to the continental momentum to confront HIV and Aids as the greatest leadership challenge, the Abuja declaration and the establishment of the Global Fund.

From 2004 to 2006, he directed a World Bank programme of operational research (the Treatment Acceleration Programme) to pilot strategies to strengthen the capacity of African countries to scale up comprehensive HIV and Aids programmes, providing care and treatment in an effective, affordable and equitable manner. The outcome of the programme was significant in influencing the World Health Organisation’s global policy framework for the provision of complex Aids-related medication in resource poor settings.

Since 2007, Poku has advised and provided technical assistance to more than 30 governments on HIV and Aids policy and programming, and has worked closely with numerous regional and global bodies, including the World Health Organisation, World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, UNAIDS, African Union, African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa, to advance the Aids response. His experience at the highest political levels, combined with his ongoing research at the frontline of the HIV and Aids epidemic, means that he is well-placed to support Frontline AIDS and its Global Plan of Action in his role as Chair.

Chair of the UKZN Council, Dr Letticia Moja, extended Council’s congratulations to Poku on his appointment, saying that he is highly respected as one of the world’s foremost experts on the political economy of Africa’s HIV and Aids epidemic.

The appointment is Poku’s second major achievement in 2021 following the launch of his book: "Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa" in February. The new publication is the "first book to be devoted to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), which is at once authoritative, accessible and presented both thematically and with a place-specific focus".

Words: Ndabaonline

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