UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Africa: AIDS Update, African Statements Date distributed (ymd): 001204 Document reposted by APIC
Region: Continent-Wide Issue Areas: +economy/development+ Summary Contents: This posting contains a press release from the Economic Commission for Africa, on the opening of the African Development Forum in Addis Ababa on 'AIDS: The Greatest Leadership Challenge.' Extensive additional information, including daily updates, background papers and speeches, is available at http://www.uneca.org/adf2000/daily_updates
It also contains one of the opening statements from the Forum: 'Living with HIV/AIDS as a Young African Woman' by Charlotte Mjele, Hopeworldwide Jabavu Clinic, Soweto, and the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa (SWAA-South Africa). Among her remarks: 'The life of an African with HIV should not be seen to be less than that of his or her counterpart in other parts of the world.'
Another posting sent out today contains three new statements from UNAIDS with updates on HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, which has claimed almost two and a half million lives this year.
For additional sources and earlier documents see http://www.africapolicy.org/action/health.htm
The on-line discussion preceding the ADF can be found at: http://www.bellanet.org/adf/2000
Economic Commission for Africa
ECA Press Release No. 12/2000
- For all the latest ADF 2000 documents, including full text of the speeches, the programme, theme papers and background documents, please visit the ADF website at http://www.uneca.org/adf2000 and click on "Daily Update".
- The site will be updated regularly with statements, press releases, summaries and other relevant information. It will also include links to a multimedia archive featuring video and audio highlights of the Forum.
- For more information, please contact: The Communication Team Economic Commission for Africa Tel: +251-1-44 30 98 or +251-1-44 50 98 Fax: +251-1-51 03 65 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.uneca.org
"OUR CONTINENT DID NOT HAVE TO BE DEVASTATED LIKE THIS BY HIV/AIDS"
Addis Ababa, 03 December 2000 (ECA) - "Our continent did not have to be devastated like this by HIV/AIDS. We should not have allowed it to get to this stage and we therefore have the responsibility to reverse the situation."
These words were spoken by Charlotte Mjele, a 22-year old South African woman living with HIV/AIDS, addressing delegates at the opening ceremony of the African Development Forum 2000 (ADF 2000) this afternoon.
ADF 2000 taking place at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) from 3 - 7 December 2000 under the theme "AIDS -- The Greatest Leadership Challenge", is organized by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in conjunction with UNAIDS and its seven co-sponsors, UNDP, UNICEF, The World Bank and other partners. Its aim is to serve as a launching pad for a renewed commitment to more concerted action against HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Describing how she fought discrimination and came to terms with her HIV positive status, Ms. Mjele told the audience: "I made a conscious effort to be a leader in showing that an HIV diagnosis is not the end of one's life. Many in a similar situation would not even go out to learn and update themselves with information about this virus that is affecting us so much. Not many can stand the risk of being discriminated against. Many are still dying in fear and many are still in the victim mindset. We need to help them make the transition from a victim to a victor."
Ms. Mjele appealed to community and national leaders for "more action where it matters most - to reach young people, children at the grassroots, and to deal with poverty which is breeding HIV infection, fear, hopelessness and premature death".
Leadership, stressed Ms. Mjele, had a major role to play in reversing the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. Those with HIV/AIDS should lead by example, break their silence and disclose their status. Leadership should push for affordable treatment for HIV-infected pregnant women and HIV-related illnesses, as "the life of an African with HIV should not be seen to be less than that of his or her counterpart in other parts of the world."
Some 1,500 African leaders and policy makers, civil society organisations (including people living with HIV/AIDS and academia), young people, private sector and development partner representatives will seek to address concrete roles and responsibilities for leaders at all levels so as to galvanize an African-led response to the pandemic.
In his opening remarks, ECA's Executive Secretary, K. Y. Amoako stressed that the doomsday scenario that HIV/AIDS now posed to Africa was not the continent's inevitable future. "This is a battle for the continent's survival. We carry inside each and every one of us the potential to increase the problem or the potential to help solve the problem. This is not a policy issue: this is ourselves, our families, our communities, our hopes. And this is our decisive moment."
Setting the scene, Mr. Amoako explained the rationale behind the theme of the Forum: "Leadership is our topic. Leadership at all levels: within the family, the community, the towns, the provinces, civil society, the churches and mosques, the elders meeting places, business, labour and, upper most, at national political level. Leadership which is the boldest, most persistent, most insightful, compassionate, forceful, co-operative and imaginative we have ever had."
Describing the Forum as "our decisive moment for leadership", Mr. Amoako posed three challenges. The first was for each individual to ascertain the elements that would enable each to be a better leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, including how each person could help assure a better life for those burdened with HIV/AIDS and their families. The second was for minds to focus on how to scale up the best strategies, policies and programmes. The third was to ensure that the consensus emerging from the Forum be taken to the highest level of political leadership. "This is our time to be decisive, this is our test," said Mr. Amoako. "And because we are on the front lines, this is the world's test".
Comparing the AIDS pandemic to an invasion, Organization of African Unity (OAU) Secretary-General, Salim Ahmed Salim, told the gathering: "What many of our African countries have been experiencing in the past two decades is far worse than an armed invasion. The staggering numbers of lives lost, the critical points in our socio-economic systems that have been incapacitated, and the looming loss of our future as a people, are devastating outcomes that surpass any war situation".
Picking up on this theme in his opening address, Ethiopian President, Negaso Gidada reiterated that the HIV/AIDS pandemic was as good as an invasion, and as such required the same level of determination and resource allocation.
UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, is among dignitaries attending the Forum. Also attending the Forum are Presidents Festus Mogae of Botswana, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda. Senegal's Prime Minister, Moustapha Niasse, and Malawi's Vice-President, Justin Malewezi, are also taking part, along with Prime Minister Nagoum Yomassoum of Chad.
Several heads of UN agencies are in Addis Ababa for ADF 2000: Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS; Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of UNDP; Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF; Nafis Sadik, Executive Director of UNFPA; and Mamphela Ramphele, Managing Director of the World Bank.
The programme of work consists of pre-Forum meetings, plenary sessions and additional special sessions where participants will meet with experts, participate in roundtables, debates, benefit from skills-building workshops and discuss the main theme, issues and background papers. The core element of ADF 2000 is analysis of leadership roles in responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. Events began yesterday with pre-forum meetings to clarify roles and priority issues and to prepare for the main Forum. Monday's programme will focus on Leadership and Public Policy, and will feature plenary and breakout sessions on 'AIDS and Development'.
A highlight of the week will be a Forum of Heads of State on the morning of Thursday 7 December, to be kicked off by a keynote address by the UN Secretary-General. At this Forum, Heads of State will each deliver statements sharing their unique perspectives in their respective battles against HIV/AIDS. They will engage interactively in a dialogue with representatives from different constituencies that include leaders from the private sector, development partner agencies, and from civil society, mainly NGOs, the media, academia, and religious institutions. The interaction is expected to promote local, national, subregional and international partnerships. Former South African President Nelson Mandela will deliver a statement by video.
LIVING WITH HIVIAIDS AS A YOUNG AFRICAN WOMAN
Charlotte Mjele, Hopeworldwide Jabavu Clinic, Soweto, and the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa, SWAA-South Africa.
Two years ago I was confronted with absorbing the news of being HIV infected. Being only 20 years old a fresh college graduate, and with an exciting job as a junior consultant with an employment agency it was certainly a great personal blow. Since then, I have been faced with many challenges as a single young women, with no child and open about my HIV status. From being devastated by the news of my HIV status, and having being overwhelmed with the thought of a future with no prospects, I went through a very rough time and traumatising emotional pain that also resulted in a lot of physical pain. However, death was not on my agenda. I was young, and knew deep down that I still wanted to live. I had to reason with myself, believing that God would not put me in a situation that I could not handle. Even so, the fear did not depart from me, I cried myself to sleep everyday, as the nightmare of not knowing exactly what this virus was going to do to me suffocated me every minute. Was I now going to be a statistic that was soon going to be numbered among the infected, sick, dying or dead. My main questions was : how was I really going to fight this battle and what was my family, relatives, friends, colleagues and friends going to say and think about me?. The thought of being stigmatised hit me very hard. Considering that in my family's eyes and those who've known me, I have been a good child and daughter and a young role model, looked up to by many.
HIV had no positive influence on my life, so I thought I was really devastated. When I started loosing my hair because of stress, it didn't make me look good. I then stopped for a moment and thought - " I have been seeing others showing themselves on TV and declaring their HIV positive and some have been alive for years and they still are looking good and healthy. If they have learned to accept their status, and have coped, I CAN TOO! I looked up places of help for People Living With HIV/AIDS. I joined HOPE Worldwide support group in Soweto, Johannesburg for women and men living with HIV. I gave myself a mission to learn more about my newly found companion - HIV. For me it only made sense that if I can learn and understand more about HIV, I will definitely know how to move on with a normal life. As the days, weeks and months went by my knowledge increased and my fear decreased. Were these months easy - surely not, but I had to fight and move on. God did not allow this to happen to me because I was the worst person, but He allowed this to happen so I can bring out the best in me for myself and others in a similar situation. Learning about HIV enabled me take the next steps. I was now ready to claim back myself esteem and confidence. I knew this was a calling for me to make a difference not only in my life but in the lives of many other young women, men, girls, boys and children who are infected and affected by this epidemic. The time had come for me to break the silence. I knew it was not going to be easy to disclose my HIV status to my family, friends and the community. I asked myself many times - Charlotte do you really have to do this? HIV is so highly stigmatised in my society.
Recognising the need to fight stigma helped me make up my mind. I had to show and teach those who discriminated against people living with HIV/AIDS that it was simply their ignorance about HiV/AIDS that caused them to stigmatise HIV+ people. I wanted to show everyone that as a person living with HIV/AIDS, I and others are not VICTIMS. A victim is one with no control over the unfavourable circumstances in their lives. But this is not the way I see myself and others living with HIV/AIDS. Because even though we are infected with HIV we still have a choice and the resolve to lead a meaningful life, It is all a matter of the decision one takes.
After having educated my family about HIV/AIDS for over a year to try and prepare them to receive the news I had for them, I then disclosed to them. They were shocked, angry and sad. My parents felt like life had been unfair to them. But, when they started to see that I was still a happy young woman, with goals and dreams for even a better future they also learned to accept my status and decided to fellow my motto: "With HIV infection one can either allow it to be an obstacle to a truthful life ahead or use it as stepping stone to a determined and productive life"
When I started going public about my status I already knew people would discriminate against me but that did not bother me because I knew that the people who discriminated were the very ones who needed to be educated. It was obvious to me to that depending on how I treated others and presented myself people will respond to me in a similar manner. If you treat yourself as a shameful HIV VICTIM others will be happy to treat you that way as well, but if you treat yourself as a positive ROLE MODEL they'll accept and respect you. I let people see and know that I'm not an HIV statistic, but a dynamic young woman full of life, and with dignity, who happen, to have HIV infection.
Today I stand here knowing for sure that not many young women and men or matured women and men have the courage to do what I'm doing. I made a conscious effort to be a leader in showing that an HIV diagnosis is not the end of ones life. Many in a similar situation would not even go out to learn and update themselves with information about this virus that is affecting us so much. Not many can stand the risk of being discriminated against. Many are still dying in fear and many are still in the VICTIM mindset. We need to help them make the transition from a victim to victor.
Fellow AFRICANS, our distinguished leaders and friends of Africa around the world present at this conference, our continent did not have to be devastated like this by HIV/AIDS. We should not have allowed it get to this stage and we therefore have the responsibility to reverse the situation.
My appeal today is this:
To the leaders of our communities, the leaders of our countries yes something is being done about HIV/AIDS, but the problem far outstrips our current effects and solutions. We need a lot more action where it matters most - to reach young people, children at the grassroots, and to deal with poverty which is breeding HIV infection, fear, hopelessness and premature death.
The poor in our communities, girls, boys, the young and matured women and men need to be empowered with knowledge on how to deal with the burden of HIV/ADS, and find the means to cope with poverty without putting themselves at the risk of HIV infection. We need to ensure that those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS are offered meaningful alternatives so that they can cope, and not die without dignity as many of them are now doing, Poor people have dignity, and value their lives like the rest of you. They should become empowered so that they can find solutions to the many problems affecting their lives, including HIV/AIDS,
Leadership needs to play a major role in reversing the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS because no matter what we do as long as there are misconceptions, negative attitudes and beliefs about HIV/AIDS and those infected and affected, stigma will continue to take a strong root, and render our interventions ineffective.
It is time many leaders in our communities and countries start to break the silence too and disclose their HIV status. If leaders In governments, private sector, churches and so forth urge their people to test for HIV, these leaders need to take that giant step first - it is called leading by example. The more we have more prominent men and women talk about their HIV status the better the chances of reducing stigma. I sincerely admire and honour noble men like Judge Edwin Cameron of South Africa who did not let their high standing in society discourage them disclosing their HIV + status.
The rights of people living with HIV/AIDS are violated without any sanctions. This offence needs to be taken seriously because if it is not dealt with, it will deter many positive people from making their contributions as frontline HIV/AIDS educators and counsellors.
A major role still needs to be played by the leadership to make available affordable treatment for HIV infected pregnant women, and HIV related illnesses. Anti-retroviral treatment has proven to help many people's health improve - The life of an African with HIV should not be seen to be less than that of his or her counterpart in other parts of the world.
The needs of young people, infected or affected should be given high priority. And, in this regard parents, school authorities, religious and community leaders and all stakeholders should ensure that young people have the information, skills, and resources to cope with the situation.
Finally, on behalf of the Society for women and AIDS in Africa (SWAA), and in particular the South Africa branch of SWAA of which I am a member, I will like to thank the organizers for the opportunity to share my experience at this conference. Thank you all.
Message-Id: <200012050221.VAA03253@server.africapolicy.org> From: "APIC" <email@example.com> Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2000 20:16:26 -0500 Subject: Africa: AIDS Update, African Statements
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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