All sectors urged to join HIV battle -as UNAIDS launches new campaignSaturday, December 15, 2007 – 11:28 am
Source: Stabroek News
The US Ambassador to Guyana has lauded the local battle against HIV and a call was sounded for leaders from all sectors to join the fight against the virus as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) launched the ‘Take the Lead’ World AIDS Campaign locally.
Tuesday evening’s launching at the Umana Yana saw representatives from every religious organisation, the business community, trade unions and civil society making presentations on their roles.
UN Country Representative Aboubacry Tall encouraged leaders to come together and pledge their continuous support and commitment to the HIV/AIDS response in Guyana. “With all these commitments, the war against HIV will be won in Guyana, region by region, community by community and family by familyâ€¦ but Guyana will not win this fight alone, HIV is a global epidemic with global ramifications,” Tall said.
As such, he said, the epidemic needed a global response to complement national efforts as well as the continuous support of the international community. Tall said people living with HIV need special support to realize their rights and the world and their countries need to show leadership.
“Leadership is saying it like it is. Leadership is about caring enough to reach across the political divide and unite around a single defining purpose,” he stressed.
The UN representative noted that Guyana was moving from denial to awareness in the fight against the disease and that is definitely a great achievement. “I am convinced that leadership is the defining factor in this profound turnaround,” he added.
He pledged the UN’s continued commitment. “When we discuss HIV within the UN, we do not only refer to UNAIDS, we attach particular importance to the role of key UN institutions, such as the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the leadership role of the Secretary General of the United Nations.”
Tall commended UNAIDS for its leadership in collating and packaging scientific and technical strategies towards HIV advocacy. Its involvement, he added, showed how critical the UN considered HIV.
US Ambassador David Robinson called on Guyanese to renew their commitment to compassionate leadership and action and to recognize the power of partnership. The ambassador said new partnerships should be encouraged, which would in turn create new hope and new opportunities to work together in the fight against HIV.
“The United States recognizes that this fight has to be won and as such in 2003 the US President launched his emergency plan for AIDS relief at a cost of $15 billion, the single largest health initiative in history,” he said. He noted that in 2007 President George W. Bush asked the US Congress to double that commitment.
To this end, Robinson called on other international agencies to follow suit. The monetary contributions to Guyana, he said, had indeed shown striking results. No waiting list for persons seeking treatment; a state-of-the-art supply chain warehouse; construction of the National Public Reference Laboratory in progress; and comprehensive services, free of charge for those in need, are all evidence of work being done.
But the ambassador also pointed out that even as those examples illustrate that money was important, they also show that coordinated partnership, public and private, makes the difference. “We’ve seen examples of high-minded, well-funded, programmes floundering in disarrayâ€¦ the main beneficiaries too often are consultants, folks with no real stake in our life-gripping issues. Throwing money at problems never works.”
Robinson added that Guyana was on the right path and the time was right to rededicate to those winning partnerships and to invest jointly in long-term strategic planning.
Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who delivered the President’s statement, called on leaders not to be complacent in the fight against HIV. He said that indeed Guyana has come a long way in the response to the epidemic, however, much more needed to be done. Ramsammy said that as leaders continue to overcome the many challenges in the fight, they would be able to look back with pride at a job well done. The minister also highlighted the contributions of international agencies, which have helped Guyana tremendously. He lauded the support from faith-based and non-governmental organisations as well as civil society.
Ramsammy said that with all the support available he was confident the epidemic would not overwhelm the Guyana population. “We have all the resources necessary to deal with HIVâ€¦” the Health Minister said. He said that given the strides being made here, achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services was not impossible by the 2010 deadline. He also called for more emphasis to be placed removing stigma and discrimination from our society.
This year marked 20 years since the first AIDS case was diagnosed in Guyana.
With the launching of the local leg of the ‘Take the lead’ World AIDS Campaign, Guyana has joined a year-long campaign to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration. The campaign was launched on Tuesday by the UN as it celebrated Human Rights Day.