Africa: African Leaders on AIDS, 06/26/01

Africa: African Leaders on AIDS, 06/26/01

Africa: African Leaders on AIDS Date distributed (ymd): 010626 Document reposted by APIC

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Region: Continent-Wide Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+


The UN General Assembly Special Session on AIDS began with over 139 official statements in the first two days ( Critical statements from activists, non-governmental organizations and youth are expected to be available soon. In her official statement, British representative Clare Short commented: "We have, I am afraid, no reason to congratulate ourselves on the holding of this meeting. We have been aware of the infection for 20 years and that it was spreading out of control for at least 10 years. And we must not fool ourselves that the holding of a UN Special Session leads to any automatic improvements in prevention or treatment. We use up enormous energy in arguing at great length over texts that provide few, if any, follow up mechanisms or assurances that governments and UN Agencies will carry forward the declarations that are agreed."

African official statements stressed the need to address gender inequality, the imperative for greater funding for both treatment and prevention, and the urgency of debt cancellation so that poor countries could meet their own commitments to invest in public health.

This posting contains selected excerpts from official statements by African countries.

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Excerpts from Statement By H. E. Dr. Pascoal Manuel Mocumbi Prime Minister of the Republic of Mozambique

25 June, 2001

We know and widely acknowledge that poverty, stigma, lack of information and weak health infrastructures, hinder our quest in Southern Africa to succeed in fighting this epidemic. We have been less willing to acknowledge and to break our silence regarding the sexual behaviour and the gender inequalities that drive the epidemic.

Unlike the communicable killer diseases we have encountered most often in the past, HIV is transmitted through the most intimate and private human relationships, through sexual violence and commercial sex; it proliferates mostly because of women's poverty and inequality.

In Mozambique, the overall rate of HIV infection among girls and young women estimated at 15 per cent, is twice that of boys their age, not because the girls are promiscuous, but because nearly 3 out of 5 are married by age 18, 40 per cent of them to much older, sexually experienced men who may expose their wives to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Similar patterns are common in other nations where HIV is rapidly spreading. Abstinence is not an option for these child brides. Those who try to negotiate condom use commonly face violence or rejection. And in heterosexual sex, girls and women are biologically more vulnerable to infection than boys or men.

Accordingly, we must give special attention to vulnerable groups such as women and young people, girls in particular. We are striving to provide the necessary information and skills that will empower them to protect themselves. We must summon the courage to talk frankly and constructively about sexuality. We must recognize the pressures on our children to have sex that is neither safe nor loving. We must provide them with information, communication skills and, yes, condoms.

My Government cannot overemphasize the need for girls and women to be empowered in the fight against HIV/AIDS, given their vital role in our society. The struggle against HIVlAIDS will fail if women and their rights are not brought to the forefront.

Similarly, the manner in which people living with HIV/AIDS are treated is a matter of great concern for us. This is an issue that requires urgent action by the Governments through enacting and implementing appropriate legislation to protect this important segment of the population. I take this opportunity to announce that our parliament will be debating in the near future legislation aimed at protecting the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. We do so because we believe it is the Government's responsibility to ensure the protection of every segment of the society without discrimination. By the same token, we also believe that the voice of those affected by the pandemic must be heard and taken into consideration.

Our country stands right at the bottom of the global wealth pyramid and yet Mozambicans are still willing, perhaps at times miraculously, to stand and walk through every trial.

Since HIV/AIDS is a global problem that calls for a global solution and action, this special session must call on those countries that managed to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as those in a position to do so, to support countries in need. Future generations depend upon our decisions. We, the leaders gathered here, have the means and ways to deliver a bright and safe future for our children. We must not leave for tomorrow, the current unsustainable global patterns of poverty, debt, and the shameful and immoral prices demanded for drugs and medicines to treat HIV/AIDS.

My delegation would like to commend the United Nations family for the proposed creation of the Global Fund to Fight Against HIV/AIDS. Given the immensity of the problem and the urgency of the task at hand, we would like to urge those in a position to do so to contribute to the fund expeditiously, while emphasizing on four critical points:

1. The additional nature of the resources allocated to the fund, to ensure that resources are not taken away from current development programmes for fighting poverty;

2. Access to such fund should not be subject to a cumbersome bureaucratic mechanism and should be aimed at enhancing national capacities of recipient countries;

3. The management of the fund should be transparent so that those in need can benefit effectively from it;

4. No commitment we declare today will achieve the desired results if adequate resources are not provided consistently and sustained over time.


Excerpts from Statement By His Excellency President Olusegun Obasanjo [president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria] 25 June, 2001

Mr. President, it is distressing to note that Africa, a continent already crippled with problems of underdevelopment, poverty, food scarcity, internal conflicts, and the heavy burden of external debt, is the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. According to the Secretary General's report, Africa is home to 70 per cent of adults and 80 per cent of children living with HIV. It is also home to three quarters of the nearly 22 million people worldwide that have died of AIDS since the epidemic began. Today, out of more than 36 million people worldwide living with AIDS, over 25 million are to be found in Africa. There is a growing population of children orphaned by AIDS, and of the world's 13 million of such children, over 12 million are in Africa.

Mr. President, with this trend in statistics, the future of our continent is bleak, to say the least, and the prospect of extinction of the entire population of a continent looms larger and larger. We do not have any choice but to contemplate exceptional measures to contain the spread and devastation of HIV/AIDS.

The Abuja Summit produced a Declaration On HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases, as well as a Framework Plan of Action for the implementation of the Declaration:

In taking the above steps, we in Africa are conscious of the need for additional assistance from the international community in support of the global dimension of the war against HIV/AIDS. The undeniable fact is that, with the fragility of our economies, we simply lack capacity to adequately respond to the magnitude of HIV/AIDS epidemic.

We are encouraged by the success story in the industrialised countries where HIV/AIDS is being reasonably controlled, and urge the international community to make a firm commitment to helping Africa achieve similar results. We support the initiative of the UN Secretary General to create a Global AIDS Fund, to fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases related to it. The Fund, which is to be capitalized by the donor community to the tune of seven to ten billion US dollars, would focus on prevention, with special attention to treatment through the provision of drugs at affordable prices by the leading international pharmaceutical companies. Let the administration and management of this Fund be the concern and responsibility of the UN Secretary-General, the donors and indeed all stakeholders, especially the victims who know where the shoe pinches.

Furthermore, the circumstance and the situation of HIV/AIDS underscore our call for total cancellation of Africa's debts in favour of investment in the social sector. Mr. President, if we are to be true partners in development, the debt issue must be addressed in a comprehensive manner that frees our resources to enable us fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS, as well as meet our other social obligations to our people.

Mr. President, I wish to make a plea for the millions who are already infected with the HIV virus. These people, referred to as `people living with HIV', require primary attention. I will include here the millions of children orphaned by the disease. This Special Session must therefore consider and adopt a comprehensive approach that accords priority to:

* the treatment and improvement of life for infected persons; * the prevention of mother-to-child transmission; and * adequate welfare and provision for AIDS orphans so that they can grow up into normal members of the society.

Let us come up with a programme that respects and saves `People Living with AIDS' as part of humanity. Let us help them to overcome the stigma of society, and they can join the crusade against further spread of the killer disease.


Excerpts from Statement By: Hon. Eriya Kategaya First Deputy Prime Minister/minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uganda, 25 June, 2001

Uganda was the "epicentre" of the epidemic in the mid 1980s. Today, our country is frequently cited as a "success story". Whereas we have made a considerable dent in the epidemic, we regard this merely as modest "progress". We have not yet achieved "success". There is, therefore, no room for complacency.

HIV prevalence in Uganda has declined from an average of 18.5% in 1993 to 8.3% in 1999, and 6.2% in 2000. Today, there are more than 1.4 million Ugandans infected in a population of only 22 million. Close to 1.0 million people have died, leaving behind more than 1.7 million orphaned children below the age of 15 years. Over 30,000 babies are born annually with HIV from their infected mothers.

By the very nature, the disease deprives us of the most productive segment of the population. There is loss of GDP of 0.9 annually. Our health systems are over-stretched. The epidemic poses a grave health burden and a severe socio-economic problem.

Our people have grappled with the disease for nearly 20 years. We, therefore, largely know what works. Our country responded courageously at different levels: in the political and policy arena, the technical and scientific field and among civil society and grass-root communities. I salute them all.

Above all, I salute the Ugandan Network and Associations of People Living with HIV/AIDS, who have come out openly. Their advocacy and campaigns have made a tremendous contribution to our progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

A number of factors were clearly unique in our response to this pandemic:

Uganda recognised at an early stage that HIV/AIDS is a multi-dimensional problem which requires a multi-sectoral approach for the political, cultural, economic and health/clinical perspectives.

Like in all other countries, at the beginning there was fear and panic, then denial, stigma and discrimination. These are now dramatically reduced.

President Museveni personally led community mobilisation campaigns, speaking about AIDS at every opportunity. The President also adopted the attitude of openness about the disease. He urged all our leaders to put AIDS on their political agenda, and technical experts to provide correct information to the public. The NRM Administration actively encouraged public debate about AIDS-related activities.

The involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS was critical in the mobilisation and awareness campaign.

Our country is poised to intensify, expand and accelerate activities that have proved effective. We have integrated AIDS issues in the national priority programme, under the Poverty Eradication Action Plan. This implies that debt relief HIPC funds will, inter alia, be dedicated to AIDS activities. Due to our dire need for HIV/AIDS strategic interventions, we have had to borrow World Bank funds to support our programme for scaling up. The estimated cost to scale up our response is well above US$50 million per year. The Bank loan of US$10 million per year is clearly inadequate.

We are expanding and integrating antiretroviral therapy into the regular health system, starting with prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. Our Health Ministry has already started preparing for proper provision of Antiretrovirals. The greatest obstacle is, clearly, the cost of effective drugs. We urge the international community to continue searching for strategies to access these drugs. We appreciate the efforts of Pharmaceutical companies so far, but more must be done.

Uganda has pledged US$2 million as a contribution to the Global Fund for AIDS and Health. It is my honest opinion that richer countries should contribute according to what is proportionate to their resources. We need to ensure effective and efficient mechanism to access these funds through the appropriate UN agency - UNAIDS which has the technical competence.


Excerpts from Statement by Dr T. J. Stamps the Honourable Minister of Health and Child Welfare of the Republic of Zimbabwe, 25 June 2001

We have achieved, as a nation two internationally recognised acclaimed successes which we continue to prioritize.

1. Ensuring and maintaining, since the earliest days of the epidemic (1985) a sustainable safe national blood transfusion service.

2. The highest coverage, of any country in the world, of reliable condoms (18 per male per annum since 1994).

We are compelled to inform Mr. Nazios (the new director of USAID) that, though we may not have clocks or roads in Africa, we do know the time and time is ticking away inexorably for some of our states.

We know that antiretrovirals are only a part of the solution to the problem, but while they are denied to us the message of prevention, especially knowing one's HIV status, is inadequately supported.

We have had enough of the discriminatory stigmatising attitude of the rich towards the poor and the inequality which propagates the virus.


Excerpts from Statement By The President of the United Republic of Tanzania, His Excellency Benjamin William Mkapa, 26 June 2001

Of all the human rights, the most basic is the right to life, a life in dignity. Never before in Africa has this most basic of all rights been under greater siege. But the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a global crisis. Combined with TB and malaria, it is threatening the very existence of certain groups of the human race, testing our common humanity to the limit and challenging the content and integrity of our civilisation.

That most of the Heads of State and Government attending this Special Session are from developing countries is a testament to the obvious--that it is us who are most affected; that it is us who must lead the way; that it is us who need the greatest international support; and that it is us who dare to hope that this Special Session will produce not only a Declaration but practical commitments of urgent support as well.

We acknowledge that the primary responsibility in the war on HIV/AIDS rests with each country. And we are here to commit ourselves before the world to do our part.

It is one thing for Africa to assume leadership and ownership of this holistic and integrated approach, and quite another to get it operational and produce results. For, the cost of implementation is patently prohibitive and overwhelming, especially as we have another war front, that against poverty. We are here to appeal for greater partnership and more help, with new resources, not repackaged existing aid programmes.

For a country like Tanzania, even developing the national capacity to effectively and efficiently treat all Sexually Transmitted Diseases, TB, Malaria, and opportunistic infections on our own is impossible; so is the prospect of building the national capacity for blood screening, for widespread HIV testing and counselling, for measuring viral loads in patients, for the infrastructure to deliver and monitor the dispensation of anti-retroviral drugs, and finally the cost of the anti-retroviral drugs themselves. We thank those pharmaceutical companies that have agreed to offer the drugs at cost. But for Tanzania, where half of the people live on less than a dollar a day, drugs that cost a dollar a day remain only a dream for most of the victims.

The world has never faced a greater threat to the human race, not even during the World Wars. In what we agree to do, or not to do, we are defining and redefining the content and limits of our humanity, and the arbiter will be the future for those that will remain to tell the story.

There are those who say cheap drugs are not a priority for Africa. We also don't think they are a panacea. But we say they are important. Every life they extend is as important in Africa as it is in rich countries. For every baby that is saved from being infected from its mother, we are building the foundation of the future of our continent. As of now, only one out of 2500 HIV-positive Africans is on anti-retroviral drug therapy. The rest are left to die.

Then there are those that accuse the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, of raising unrealistic expectations. To us, that is not the problem. The real problem is lack of political will among some of the rich countries and corporations. If rich countries can spend over USD 300 billion a year to subsidize agriculture which accounts for less than 10% of their GDP, and if they could spend over USD 100 billion on Y2K, they can surely spare USD 10 billion for the Global Fund to save and prolong the lives of tens of millions of poor people.

No, the Secretary-General is not raising unrealistic expectations; he is only asking the world to do what is in its collective power to achieve in partnership, in human solidarity, to save millions of lives, particularly in Africa, thus safeguarding the continent's future.


Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2001 19:57:44 -0500 Subject: Africa: African Leaders on AIDS

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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