Botswana Country Visit Communiqué

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Communiqué

Gaborone, Botswana | 30 August 2019

Today marks the end of the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation two-day mission to Botswana.  We came here to engage with the national leadership on status of the response in Botswana and to advocate for increased commitment to ending AIDS and ensuring that no one is left behind, by addressing political, social and legal barriers to fast-track ending AIDS. We are confident that Botswana can and will end AIDS as a public health threat.

While in Botswana, we also commemorated 10 years of the Champions’ programme. The very first meeting that established the Champions for an AIDS- Free Generation took place here in Gaborone, in 2008. We have come full circle. In this commemoration, in collaboration with our partners UNAIDS, represented by Ms. Gunilla Carlsson, Executive Director ai, PEPFAR, represented by Amb. Craig Cloud and SADC Secretariat, represented by Amb Joseph Nourrice and the Government and people of Botswana, we took stock of our work, the successes we have had and where we could have done better. We concluded that we, the Champions, with support of our partners, UNAIDS, PEPFAR and SADC Secretariat, will continue the advocacy for ending AIDS and leaving no one behind in Africa.

We had successful engagement with His Excellency, the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi and Ministers responsible for Health and HIV on the status of the response and its implementation. We commend the leadership of His Excellency Masisi for the progress Botswana has made towards ending AIDS.

Whilst we commend Botswana for the significant progress made in her response to the HIV epidemic in recent years, the country is still experiencing new HIV infections, particularly among the key affected populations and young people. The war on HIV and AIDS is not over. However, we are pleased to inform you that His Excellency President Masisi, has reaffirmed his commitment to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.

We confirm that His Excellency, the President of Botswana, is committed to re-energising and re-prioritizing the HIV and AIDS agenda, while leaving no one behind. President Masisi made the pronouncement that all populations of Botswana will be provided with comprehensive HIV services, including ART, and no one will be excluded. We commend his courageous leadership which demonstrates that complacency is being reversed. This pronouncement is evidence that Botswana is in its last sprint towards ending AIDS by 2030.

We commend the commitment of the First Lady of Botswana, Mrs. Neo Masisi, as Special Ambassador for the Empowerment and Engagement of Young People in Botswana. UNAIDS could not have found a better giant in Botswana to champion issues of young people, particularly young women and girls. We are encouraged by the tremendous work that the First Lady of Botswana in advocating for young people’s needs, the promotion and protection of their rights, and their leadership roles as agents of change.

AIDS remains a key challenge for countries in sub-Saharan Africa and for Botswana. The shrinking external resources coupled with the stagnant or slight increases in domestic investment in health and HIV has resulted in a continually widening resource gap between what is required and what is available. Yesterday we had a high- level dialogue with different leadership sectors and stakeholders to debate the various options and models to sustain political leadership on HIV. We strongly encourage Botswana to build a fair share of domestic resources to prepare for sustainability of the HIV response. We urge the national response authorities to strategically engage the private sector in supporting the government’s efforts in in closing the resource gap. In light of the competing priorities, political leadership must ensure that complacency at all levels is reversed and that leadership leaves no one behind.

The threat of complacency on HIV prevention interventions should be reversed. We, therefore, urge the national HIV response stakeholders to prioritize prevention interventions with a focus on vulnerabilities that expose adolescents and young people, especially girls and young women to HIV. We call upon all stakeholders to have targeted prevention messages, including education and awareness creation on the dangers of early sexual debut, high rates of multiple sex partners, low levels of consistent condom use, intergenerational and transactional sex, and gender based violence. We all know that prevention is better and cheaper than cure, and hence our focus should be on prevention.

This morning, we had a dialogue with the young people and civil society in an effort to build young people’s leadership and accountability in the response. We urge young people to take ownership and accountability of the rising new infections amongst their age mates and colleagues. We encourage young people to work together, form coalitions, and have freedom with responsibilities and meaningfully participation in national and community structures to avert new HIV infections. We advocate for prioritization and engagement of young people as partners and as leaders in the national response.

In conclusion, we call upon the national authorities in Botswana to implement initiatives that leave no one behind and that political, social and legal barriers should be addressed if we are to fast-track ending AIDS. We are grateful to the His Excellency, the President of Botswana, his national response Ministers, government officials, development partners and civil society for the warm welcome we received in Botswana. We also wish to extend our gratitude to the enthusiasm and level of participation shown by the national leadership sectors, key stakeholders and partners, young people and civil society in the two dialogues. The war against HIV is not over. Let us rise and together finish the last sprint to end AIDS.

I thank you.

His Excellency the former President of Botswana, Festus G. Mogae, Chairperson of the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa

 

 

Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation to hold high-level national dialogue on an inclusive response and youth dialogue on the topic of leadership and accountability in the HIV response

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MEDIA ADVISORY

Gaborone, Botswana | 22 August 2019

News media are invited to attend a High-Level National Political Dialogue on an Inclusive HIV Response, a Youth and Champions Dialogue and a Press Conference during the Champions’ country visit to Botswana. The three events will take place at the Gaborone International Conference Centre, Gaborone, Botswana on Thursday the 29th and Friday the 30th of August 2019.

During the country visit to Botswana, the Champions will advocate for increased commitment to the acceleration of the HIV response and its implementation in Botswana. They will urge that no one is left behind and that political, social and legal barriers are addressed in order to fast-track ending AIDS.

The following Champions will partake in the Botswana country visit, dialogues and press conference: 

  1. H.E. Festus Mogae | former President of Botswana and Champions Chairperson

  2. H.E. Joyce Banda | Former President of Malawi

  3. H.E. Kgalema Motlanthe | former President of South Africa

  4. H.E. Hifikepunye Pohamba | former President of Namibia

  5. Professor Miriam Were | former Chancellor of Moi University, Kenya

The Champions will also be joined by Ms Gunilla Carlsson UNAIDS EXD ai.

EVENT             High- Level National Political Dialogue on an Inclusive HIV response

DATE               Thursday, 29 August 2019

WHEN              17:30 to 19:00

WHERE            Gaborone International Conference Centre

EVENT             Youth and Champions Dialogue: Building young people’s leadership and accountability in the response

DATE               Friday, 30 August 2019

WHEN              08:30 to 10:00

WHERE            Gaborone International Conference Centre                            

 

EVENT             Media Conference  

DATE               Friday, 30 August 2019

WHEN              10:30 to 11:00

WHERE            Gaborone International Conference Centre

 

CONTACT

Sarah Bald | Champions | +267 72 738 503 | chapmpionsunaids@gmail.com  

Thuto Ditibane | NAPHA | +267 71  457 942 | tditibane@gov.bw

Mpho Mmelesi | UNAIDS Botswana | +267 72 892 326 | MmelesiM@unaids.org

Ineke Stoneham | U.S. Embassy Public Affairs | +267 373 2468 | StonehamIM@state.gov

 

RSVP

Please send your RSVP by Tuesday 27 August, 2019 to: Sarah Bald at email chapmpionsunaids@gmail.com, Ephraim Keoreng at this email KeorengET@state.gov and Thuto DItibane at this email tditibane@gov.bw.

 

 

ABOUT THE CHAMPIONS

The Champions for an AIDS- Free Generation are a distinguished group of former presidents and influential African leaders committed to an AIDS-free generation. Individually and collectively the Champions rally and support regional leaders towards ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat. The Champions transcend political partisanship to speak freely and independently about the issues that need solutions, both publically and behind the scenes.

 

The Champions are chaired by H.E. Festus Mogae and comprised of Former Presidents including H.E. Joaquim Chissano, H.E. Kgalema Motlanthe, H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, H.E. Alpha Konare, H.E. Kenneth Kaunda, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, H.E. Joyce Banda, H.E. Hifikepunye Pohamba and prominent personalities including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, H.E. Specioza Wandira, Prof. Mariam Were and Hon. Justice Edwin Cameron.

Amref pays Courtesy Call to Champions for AIDS- Free Generation

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Press Release

Gaborone, Botswana | 17 July 2019  

Amref Health Africa and the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation met to discuss common interests and mutual partnerships in ending AIDS and expanding access to health services for communities across the African continent. Both Amref and the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation are African-based organizations dedicated to improving the health and lives of Africa’s citizens.

The courtesy call was paid to the Champions Chairperson and former President of Botswana, H.E. Festus Mogae, by the Amref Health Africa’s International Board Chairperson, Mr. Omari Issa along with Dr. Ginthinji Gitahi, Global CEO, Amref; Professor Marion Mutugi, Vice Chancellor Amref International University and Edwin Macharia, Amref University Council member, on 17 July 2019 in Gaborone, Botswana.

The mission of Amref is to increase sustainable health access to communities in Africa through solutions in human resources for health, health services delivery and investments in health. The Board Chair described Amerf’s philosophy in health development. “Communities are already helping themselves. Amref is here to amplify their existing power with integrity and respect.”

The Champions’ ideals were shared with Amref. The former President of Botswana concluded, “Communities have been and will continue to be the catalyst for change. For us to advance the health of our people, we must work together.” 

Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa

The Champions for an AIDS- Free Generation are a distinguished group of former presidents and influential African leaders committed to an AIDS-free generation. Individually and collectively the Champions rally and support regional leaders towards ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat. The Champions transcend political partisanship to speak freely and independently about the issues that need solutions, both publically and behind the scenes

The Champions are chaired by H.E. Festus Mogae and comprised of Former Presidents including H.E. Joaquim Chissano, H.E. Kgalema Motlanthe, H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, H.E. Alpha Konare, H.E. Kenneth Kaunda, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, H.E. Joyce Banda, H.E. Hifikepunye Pohamba and prominent personalities including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, H.E. Specioza Wandira, Prof.Mariam Were and Hon. Justice Edwin Cameron.

Remarks by H.E. Joaquim A. Chissano Former President of the Republic of Mozambique

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Speech

By the Former President of Mozambique, Joaquim A. Chissano, at the Conference of SADC Ministers responsible for HIV/AIDS under the theme “Our Pathway to Sustained HIV Epidemic Control”

Windhoek, Namibia | 13 June 2019

  1. Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, our sad reality in southern Africa is that AIDS is still very much with us. We, as Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation have a slogan that says, “A stronger, more visionary and outspoken leadership must come from the continent most affected by this epidemic”.

  2. Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the SADC region has demonstrated that leadership for sustaining and ending AIDS without leaving anyone behind, is key. The region, while bearing the greatest brunt of the epidemic has also provided commendable leadership. We are comforted by the leadership of His Excellency Hage Gottfried Geingob and the support of UNAIDS in convening this very crucial conference. It comes at a critical time when we should be visionary and forward looking to protect our gains and to advance our goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. If we can end AIDS in this region then it can be ended on the continent.

  3.  Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I am a member of the Champions for an AIDS-free Generation. I bring warm greetings from my fellow Champions.  I, along with twelve other Champions have committed to prioritise and sharpen our focus and advocacy on complex issues that continue to challenge us in ending AIDS as a public health threat. In this regard, we are dedicated to advocating for increased commitment to address political, social and legal barriers and blockages to fast-track the response in Africa. We lay a great deal of emphasis on key and marginalised populations and adolescent girls and young women and their partners. We address sustainability of the response through increased commitment to domestic investments for HIV and health. The majority from our group of Champions are former heads of states from the SADC region - your own brothers and sisters. They are from Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and my brother His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia.  

  4.  In September 2018, we the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation and UNAIDS convened, as you have done this week, experts, members of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Ministers of Health, National AIDS Commissions, diplomatic corps, Private Sector, Civil Society and partners from the SADC region, to engage and interrogate the prevailing funding environment and how we should move towards a sustained response. We recognised that the funding gap continues to grow and that the impact of this will undo the progress we have already made in this region. Together, we reviewed viable options for increasing domestic contribution to the response. Today, we are most encouraged by the leadership of the Government of Namibia and UNAIDS for convening this landmark conference, which further deepens the commitment of the SADC region to sustain and transition the response for attaining our goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

  5.  We recognise the tremendous scale up of the AIDS response on the continent, and more especially in the SADC region. We recognised that this scale up has greatly benefited from the tremendous mobilisation of international, regional and national efforts and commitments. 

  6. As Champions we continue to be concerned by the growing threats to the remarkable progress our countries have made. However, we are not out of the woods yet. Our progress remains fragile and is continually under threat from complacency. We are seeing complacency from our leaders, our development partners, communities even young people themselves. We must continue to remain vigilant otherwise we will lose the progress we have already made. AIDS can and will be ended in our region.

  7.  Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, just as we feared - not too long ago when we formed the Champions initiative  rates of new infections among youth are unacceptably high. We are informed by UNAIDS that 2 in 5 new infections are among young people, with 7 in 10 of these being adolescent girls and young women. Africa has the fasted growing youth population, a great asset for the development of our continent. More than 30 percent of the population on our continent is between the ages of 10 to 24. Your excellencies ladies and gentlemen, tragically this is the demographic space where the highest new infections reside and it is growing at unacceptable rates. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a crisis. Unless we curb these new infections, we are set to lose the fight with AIDS. Prevention! prevention! prevention! is key to ensuring that no one is left behind.

  8. We have heard this week that key populations account for 17% of new infections in east and southern Africa. Stigma, discrimination and exclusion continue to derail us from achieving our prevention goals for key populations. Ladies and gentlemen, elimination of stigma and discrimination and full recognition of human rights are the cornerstones of sustainable progress. We must repeal laws that undermine access to HIV and health services for all and ensure that no one is left behind. We must enact protective laws that guarantee access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and services without any discrimination. There are Member States within our region that have done well in addressing these challenges. I want to take a moment to recognise the recent High Court Decision in Botswana along with the January decriminalisation of same sex relationships in Angola. We must learn from them and others that came before, like my own country Mozambique. We must ensure that Africa’s potential for attaining a healthy and productive continent, free of discrimination and stigma is attained.

  9. No nation can succeed and be competitive in this globalised world without investing in its own people. People remain the most valuable resource for all countries. Investing in AIDS and health is investing in the people and it is therefore investing in the future. Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, as Champions we remain gravely concerned by the ongoing funding crisis that is not only affecting SADC region but the entire continent and the world. Worldwide, the funding for prevention and treatment has flatlined. We are informed by UNAIDS that about US$21 billion was spent on the AIDS response, while US$26 billion are needed annually. We fully agree with UNAIDS’ conclusion that if the gap is not bridged, the funding shortfall will result in a reversal of the achievements we have made. We cannot afford that.

  10. Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, following the positive economic growth of some of our countries in the region, the reclassification from low income to middle-income category has meant that these countries have lost access to official development assistance. It is estimated that worldwide, official aid for health declined from 33.6 percent of health expenditures among low-income countries to 19.4 percent of health expenditures among lower middle-income countries. Our experts, including UNAIDS, confirm what we have all observed: in countries where external aid is being provided, the emphasis has shifted strongly from funding the resource gap to demonstrating that resources deliver results.  The assistance is seen as a catalyst to transition to sustainability. 

  11. Excellencies, we are encouraged as Champions that our countries recognise the importance of closing the funding gap created by the flatlining and in some cases, the receding external support. Domestic resources, mainly public, continue to be the main driver of the increase of resources for the response to HIV. The percentage of domestic resources out of the total is 56% on average for all low- and middle-income countries. We are seeing gradual increases in the domestic allocations for HIV and health, with some of our SADC countries funding more than 50% of the response from domestic public resources. A very encouraging development indeed.  However, we are concerned that 25 countries in sub Saharan Africa are investing less than 25% of the total AIDS budget. We must move with urgency to do more.

  12.  Excellencies, brothers and sisters, SADC and the continent are making commendable efforts in domestic resources mobilization innovation. Some of the innovations include the HIV and AIDS Levy Fund; the mainstreaming of HIV funding requiring a 2% allocation to AIDS by all government sectors; a funded President’s Comprehensive Response plan in one country; and establishment of HIV trust funds, among others. However, we must ensure that innovations are sustainable and are additional, not a replacement of existing government allocations. We must continue to innovate and continue to engage with private sector to be fully board. We must continue to strive to improve efficiencies in using the available resources to allow us to save what we have so that we can use it for generating additional outputs. We have to do more and do better with less.

  13. Sub-Saharan countries cannot and would not end AIDS alone. AIDS is a global challenge. Meeting the 2020 targets and Ending AIDS by 2030 is at risk unless the scale-up of services and funding is increased. The end is only possible if the international and donor community, the private sector and governments sustain and step up their funding particularly for economically constraint countries bearing the greatest burden of AIDS.

  14. Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, there is no denying that the political, economic and social environment on AIDS has shifted significantly from 10 years ago and continues to change. We are now in a different space that requires stronger political will, commitment and forward-looking leadership. We need leadership that is poised and determined to prioritise health and sustainability, a leadership that puts communities at the centre and a leadership that demands inclusivity and an HIV response that is free of stigma and discrimination.

    I thank you.

 

Côte d’Ivoire Country Visit Communiqué

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Communiqué

Read by the Champions Chairperson and Former President of Botswana H.E. Festus Mogae

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. | 19 March 2019

The Champions for an AIDS- Free Generation has completed a two-day country visit to Côte d’Ivoire. The Champions, chaired by myself, came to Côte d’Ivoire at the invitation of His Excellency President Alassane Ouattara.

We came here to recognize and commend the President and the nation for their remarkable progress and commitment to the HIV and AIDS response. We are encouraged to see the commendable collaboration between the top national leadership, the Senate, the National Assembly, different government departments and civil society. We are encouraged by the support that development partners are providing to the response in Côte d’Ivoire.   Côte d’Ivoire is one of the countries where AIDS can be ended thanks to the commendable level of political commitment. However, there is still more to be done if we are to end AIDS.

Yesterday, we had a very warm welcome from the President His Excellency Alassane Ouattara. We had the pleasure of engaging with him and some of the members of his cabinet on the status of the AIDS epidemic. We advocated for increased domestic investment in the HIV response, in health and leaving no one behind.  The President and the First Lady Dominique Ouatarra have demonstrated remarkable political and personal commitment to ending HIV in Côte d’Ivoire. His Excellency the President, as you are already aware, chairs the National AIDS Commission, and the First Lady is a Special UNAIDS Ambassador for PMTCT and promotion of pediatric treatment.

We are delighted to confirm that His Excellency the President is acutely aware of the diminishing external support. He is committed to mobilizing the country to ensure that the funding gap does not widen and affect the strides already made. He has assured me of his commitment and that of his government to ensure that structural, policy and funding barriers are addressed, including those presented by user fees. We wish to congratulate the President for his commitment, as further demonstrated by his pledge to increase domestic allocation for HIV by an additional $10 million in the next budget

We received a detailed briefing on the commendable work that Parliament and Senate have undertaken on the fight against HIV and AIDS from the Vice President of the National Assembly and the President of the Senate. I shared my experience serving as President of the Republic of Botswana, during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Sometimes our laws and practices are inconsistent with our fight against AIDS. Laws should protect and not reject our citizens. Every person should be treated with dignity and respect. We should ensure that no one is left behind if we are to end AIDS. We are encouraged that the national strategic plan addresses stigma and discrimination. The role and commitment of the legislature is evident in the adoption and the passing of the 2014 – 430 law on HIV and AIDS. We encourage the authorities to carefully review all laws and policies to ensure that the laws are consistent with the fight against HIV and AIDS.

This afternoon, the Champions were honored to engage with members of Civil Society. The Civil Society organizations that we met consisted of networks and organizations involved in the fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria. The groups also included Key Population organizations, women and youth organizations. Civil Society plays a critical role in the response.

I want to commend Civil Society in their dedication in working together with government and the legislature to end AIDS. We must continue our advocacy for ending AIDS. The survival of our people depends on them knowing their status and getting treatment as soon as possible.

In conclusion, I wish to end my mission to Cote d”Ivoire with the following message. We cannot allow the funding gap to increase. We cannot afford to lose the fight. We cannot be complacent and allow the huge improvements that we have made so far to be lost. If we stop now we will lose everything we have already invested in and achieved. The entire nation, political leaders, religious leaders, traditional leaders, young people and key populations, must all be mobilized in the fight against  AIDS and ensure that no one is left behind.

I wish to extend my gratitude to the UN Resident Coordinator, the other heads of agencies and in particular the UNAIDS Country team led by Dr. Brigitte Quenum for the support they provided  in the planning and throughout our Country Visit .

 

I thank you.

Mogae Lauds Côte d’Ivoire Leadership in Fight against AIDS

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Press Statement

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire | 19 March 2019 — HE Festus Mogae - Former President of Botswana has paid glowing tribute to the leadership of Côte d’Ivoire regarding the progress made in fighting the AIDS scourge, during his two day country-visit, at the invitation of President Alassane Outarra. During the visit, President Mogae held meetings with President Alassane Outarra; the Minister of Health, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, the President of Senate, the HIV & AIDS Parliamentary Caucus, and Representatives of Civil Society Organizations.

Former President Mogae hailed President Outarra for his leadership and dedication in the pursuit to end AIDS in his country. In recommending enhanced domestic financing towards AIDS response, Mogae noted that it was encouraging that the Côte d’Ivoire presidency was already acutely aware of diminishing external funding towards the health sector. He noted and acknowledged the decision by President Outarra to allocate an additional USD10 million towards the AIDS budget for Côte d’Ivoire in the next budget.

Mogae pointed out that, while the country’s leadership deserved commendation, a lot more still needed to be done in the HIV & AIDS response. He encouraged all stakeholders to work collaboratively towards ensuring that nobody is left behind, including aiming assiduously to attain the ambitious United Nations 90-90-90 target of ending AIDS by the year 2030.

The other interventions that President Mogae recommended towards ending AIDS include continued advocacy in prevention and care; elimination of user fees for HIV and AIDS patients; continued advocacy to stem stigma and discrimination - particularly against key populations; and a concerted effort towards legislative reform.

Mogae is Chairperson of The Champions for an AIDS Free Generation in Africa - an ensemble of Former African Heads of State & other prominent personalities committed to an AIDS-free generation. Individually and collectively, the Champions rally and support leaders in the African continent towards ending AIDS. The Champions transcend political partisanship to speak freely and independently about the issues that need solutions, both publicly and behind the scenes.

Read the original statement on the Government of Botswana’s Facebook Page

Champions Country Visit to Côte d’Ivoire

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Press Release

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire | 17 March 2019 — The Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa will embark on a two-day visit to Adibjan, Côte d’Ivoire to support National Leadership in their efforts of ending AIDS as a public health threat at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire His Excellency Alassane Ouattara.

The high-level Country Visit, on 18th and 19th March, will be led by the former President of Botswana and Champions Chairperson, His Excellency Festus Gontebanye Mogae. The primary purpose of the Champions country visit is to engage National Leadership on the status of the HIV and AIDS epidemic and response in Côte d’Ivoire.

The Champions will advocate for increased domestic investment in the HIV response and in health and to ensure that the funding gap continues to decrease. Champions will also advocate to ensure that no one is left behind by addressing political, social and legal barriers to fast-track ending AIDS.

The HIV response in west and central Africa continues to lag behind the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Both the rate of new infections and the burden of HIV remain high, accounting for 21% of new infections and 30% of death from AIDS-related illness globally. Following Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire bears the second largest HIV burden in the region with 500,000 adults and children living with HIV.

During the visit, President Festus Mogae will engage with the President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire His Excellency Alassane Ouattara, Minister of Health, President of the Senate, President of the National Assembly and the Committee on Health, AIDS, TB and Malaria and the Civil Society.

 

Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa

The Champions for an AIDS- Free Generation are a distinguished group of former presidents and influential African leaders committed to an AIDS-free generation. Individually and collectively the Champions rally and support regional leaders towards ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat. The Champions transcend political partisanship to speak freely and independently about the issues that need solutions, both publically and behind the scenes

The Champions are chaired by H.E. Festus Mogae and comprised of Former Presidents including H.E. Joaquim Chissano, H.E. Kgalema Motlanthe, H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, H.E. Alpha Konare, H.E. Kenneth Kaunda, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, H.E. Joyce Banda, H.E. Hifikepunye Pohamba and prominent personalities including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, H.E. Specioza Wandira, Prof.Mariam Were and Hon. Justice Edwin Cameron.

H.E. Mogae in Cape Town for a High-Level Dialogue on HIV, Health and Inclusion

Photo Credit: The Royal Commonwealth Society/Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa

Photo Credit: The Royal Commonwealth Society/Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa

Press Statement

Cape Town, South Africa | 21 February 2019— The Former President HE Festus Mogae is in Cape Town, South Africa to chair a High-level Political Roundtable Dialogue themed “HIV, Health & Inclusion - A Conversation with the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa”. It is held as a collaboration between the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation, The Royal Commonwealth Society, UNAIDS, and Access Chapter 2.

H.E. Festus Mogae is Chairperson of the Champions, which comprises Former Presidents Joaquim Chissano, Kgalema Motlanthe, Benjamin Mkapa, Alpha Konare, Kenneth Kaunda, Olusegun Obasanjo, Joyce Banda, Hifikepunye Pohamba and prominent personalities including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Specioza Wandira, Mariam Were and Edwin Cameron.

The Roundtable Dialogue will mainly deliberate on contextualizing HIV, Health and Inclusion - where they will look into key issues for securing human rights of key populations; as well as bridging the generational divides and potential for reforms. They’d also look into engaging Parliamentarians in legislative reform - in which discussion they’d look at opportunities and actions required to secure human rights of key populations, particularly in Botswana, Seychelles, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. Perhaps also important will be reflections on the commitment by Parliamentarians and support of the Champions, Royal Commonwealth Society, UNAIDS, Access Chapter 2 and the SADC Parliamentary Forum.

Hon. Gilbert Mangole from Botswana Parliament is joining other Legislators from Southern and Eastern Africa at the Roundtable Dialogue. Hon. Mangole is Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on HIV and AIDS.

Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation

The Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation are a distinguished group of former Presidents and influential African leaders committed to an AIDS-free generation. Individually and collectively, the Champions rally and support regional leaders towards ending the AIDS epidemic as a health threat. The Champions transcend political partisanship to speak freely and independently about the issues that need solutions, both publicly and behind the scenes.

View the original statement on the Government of Botswana’s Facebook Page

African Union recognizes Executive Director of UNAIDS for his outstanding achievements in tackling AIDS

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Press Statement

Addis Ababa/Geneva, 11 February 2019—The African Union has passed a motion of support for the Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé recognizing that the invaluable work of UNAIDS, under the leadership of Mr Sidibé, has saved many lives and has had a decisive impact on the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

The motion was passed during the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 11 February 2019. It credits Mr Sidibé’s strategic vision and relentless advocacy to ensure that all populations, including the most vulnerable, have access to health services. It also commends him for keeping HIV among the top global health priorities and for his efforts in improving the health of the people of Africa.

“It is a privilege to serve the people of Africa and the world and I have dedicated my forty-year career to ensuring that vulnerable populations everywhere can live with dignity,” said Mr Sidibé. “The strong partnership between the African Union and UNAIDS is one that has been built on shared responsibility and global solidarity. The global support for the AIDS response and people living with HIV has been unprecedented and we must redouble our efforts to end AIDS. I will continue to do my best to ensure no one is left behind.”

African Union members expressed their profound gratitude for his work and commitment and for his contribution to the attainment of the objectives of the African Union, including Agenda 2063.

The African Union said it remains committed to work with UNAIDS and all its partners to mobilize all the energies and necessary resources to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. And “counts on his unflinching commitment and abiding leadership to continue to promote the health and wellbeing of the peoples of the African continent.”

UNAIDS

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at unaids.org and connect with us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

View the original posting of Press Statement on UNAIDS

Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa call on Commonwealth parliamentarians to ‘leave no one behind’ in the fight to eradicate HIV and AIDS

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Press Release

London, United Kingdom |  27 November 2018— Two eminent former African Presidents, representing the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa, have urged Commonwealth parliamentarians to ensure they ‘leave no one behind’ in the fight to eradicate HIV and AIDS. The call was made during a side-event to the Westminster Seminar 2018, organised by The Royal Commonwealth Society in partnership with the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, with the theme ‘HIV, Inclusion & Leaving No One Behind: A Conversation with Former African Presidents’.

H.E. Festus Mogae, Former President of Botswana and Chairperson of the Champions, and H.E. Joaquim Chissano, Former President of Mozambique, spoke passionately on why securing the human rights of key populations, including sexual and gender minorities, is essential for guaranteeing the health of all and leaving no one behind. They engaged the participants in a fruitful dialogue on how stigma and discrimination against key populations continues to present a barrier to access to health services and an AIDS-free generation in Africa and beyond.

In 36 of 53 Commonwealth countries consensual same-sex acts between adults are criminalised, overwhelmingly using legislation introduced under British colonial rule. In addition to legitimising discrimination and violence, these laws represent a significant barrier to accessing health services for LGBT+ people, who face stigma in health systems where their sexual behaviour is deemed a criminal offense.

H.E. Festus Mogae said: ‘Unfortunately, barriers to access to health and HIV services still exist and they continue to fuel stigma, discrimination and violence towards marginalised groups, especially for the LGBT+ people. These barriers continue to deny us the opportunity to end AIDS.’

H.E. Joaquim Chissano said: ‘We cannot end AIDS if some sectors of our populations are still left behind.’

Glenroy Murray, an LGBT+ equality activist from Jamaica’s J-FLAG, a member organisation of The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN), also participated in the dialogue. He spoke about his advocacy efforts for inclusivity in Jamaica, and how overcoming discrimination against LGBT+ people could help reduce the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean.

He said: ‘When our legal systems fail to protect us, or worse, criminalise us, then how we seek to navigate public spaces, and public health spaces in particular, becomes more challenging. LGBT+ people, wherever they are, should feel confident in knowing that they can walk into any public health space and be open about their health issues, without fear of discrimination or condemnation.’

The discussion was chaired by Dr Greg Munro, Chief Executive of The Royal Commonwealth Society, who has wide international experience working on HIV/AIDS, including with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and UNAIDS.

He said: ‘The Royal Commonwealth Society strongly believes that in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, eradicate HIV/AIDS, and leave no one behind, we must have honest and frank discussions about the rights of LGBT+ people. The Society is delighted to continue our work promoting these discussions, by welcoming Their Excellencies Festus Mogae and Joaquim Chissano to London to foster respectful dialogue and support their bold leadership on this issue of critical importance.’

 |  Ends | 

Notes to Editor

Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa

The Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation is a distinguished group of former presidents and influential African leaders committed to an AIDS-free generation. Individually and collectively the Champions rally and support regional leaders towards ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat. The Champions transcend political partisanship to speak freely and independently about the issues that need solutions, both publicly and behind the scenes.

www.aidsfreechampions.org
Twitter: @AIDSFreeChamps
Facebook: Aids Free Champions
For more information about the Champions for an AIDS Free Generation contact Makhamokha Mohale |  E mohalem@unaids.org  | 

The Royal Commonwealth Society

The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), founded in 1868, is a network of individuals and organisations committed to improving the lives and prospects of Commonwealth citizens across the world. Through youth empowerment, education and advocacy, the RCS promotes the value and the values of the modern Commonwealth. We champion human rights, democracy and sustainable development through our international networks and across the 53 member states which are intrinsically linked through their common history and shared values. Through membership of The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) and partnerships with UK and international LGBT+ civil society organisations, the Society continues to convene high-level Champions to build dialogue and consensus between civil society, the diplomatic community and Commonwealth governments about the need to secure equality and inclusion for LGBT+ people.

https://thercs.org/
Twitter: @TheRCSlondon
Facebook: The Royal Commonwealth Society
For more information about the event contact, Rory Evans, Programme Lead, The Royal Commonwealth Society | Tel +44 (0)20 3727 305 | E rory.evans@thercs.org |

Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK (CPA UK)

CPA UK is located in and funded by the UK Parliament. It supports and strengthens parliamentary democracy throughout the Commonwealth focusing on key issues including women in parliament, modern slavery, financial oversight, security and trade. Peer to peer learning is central to CPA UK’s methodology. CPA UK designs bespoke interactions between UK and Commonwealth parliamentarians and officials, enabling and facilitating knowledge-sharing to achieve improved parliamentary oversight, scrutiny and representation. CPA UK’s Westminster Seminar 2018 runs from 26th -30th November 2018 in the heart of the UK Parliament and covers all aspects of parliamentary strengthening during the week long programme for over 70 Commonwealth parliamentarians and clerks.

https://www.uk-cpa.org/
Twitter: @CPA_UK
Facebook: @CPAUKbranch
For more information about CPA UK, please email Felicity Newall, Communications Manager, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK | Tel 020 7219 1747 | E newallfb@parliament.uk |

‘Improving Quality of Life for People Living with HIV’

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Speech

By H.E. Festus Mogae during World AIDS Day United Kingdom Parliamentary Reception

Palace of Westminster, London, United Kingdom  | 28 November 2018  

Honourable Minister for Overseas Development;

Your Excellency President Chissano;

Honourable Members of Parliament;

Your Excellencies;

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

  1. HIV and AIDS is still with us. While we do not underestimate the substantial amount of work that has been done and what has been achieved in stabilizing the situation and converting what was a killer disease into a chronic one with which a person can live with, we nevertheless still recognize that there is still a long way to go.

  2. We have more people on Treatment today but still many are waiting. We have less infections but still 1.8 million new infections in 2017 are too many and this can be prevented. We are still dealing with stigma in many parts of the world. Key populations, adolescents, young women and girls still suffer. Yet the world that has the resources, the science and other means to prevent HIV infection and treat AIDS. NO ONE MUST BE LEFT BEHIND!

  3. The bottlenecks to ending AIDS continue to concern us and continue to confirm to us that our job is not yet completed. In 2008, we took the initiative and decided to come together as Former Presidents, together with other influential African leaders and eminent persons under the banner of Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation, with a view to drive further the ideal of ending AIDS.

  4. With almost all of us from Commonwealth countries, we have committed ourselves to rally national and regional leadership to tackle this public health threat - AIDS. We consider ourselves as transcending political partisanship, speaking freely and independently about the issues and blockages to ending AIDS. We contend that national and regional leaders must address the issues relating to HIV and AIDS - both publicly and behind the scenes.

  5. We are encouraged that Africa has made positive progress in a lot of areas in the AIDS response. These include substantial decreases in new HIV infections, improvements in access to life-saving treatment and decreases in the number of deaths.

  6. However, the current pace of Africa’s response to HIV is too slow to keep up with the continent’s fast-expanding young population that needs to be healthy and productive if Africa is to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We believe that there are areas of blockages for progress that need to be addressed urgently if we are to win.  

  7. This year marks 10 years since we established the Champions for an AIDs Free Generation programme. Our aim of attaining an AIDS free generation in our lifetime remains relevant.

  8. Last year – in 2017 – we took stock of our work – reflecting on the milestones as well as the challenges in our work, in our quest towards an AIDS-free generation. It was from that exercise that we decided to sharpen our focus to take on other complex issues that have demonstrably continued to challenge us in ending AIDS. These include expanding access to HIV treatment and care for key populations and LGBTI people and young women and girls. We are committed to ensuring that no one is left behind in ending AIDS.

  9. To this end, we have identified two main areas of focus for our advocacy. The first being increased commitment to domestic investments for HIV and health, global solidarity and sustainability of the response. The second area is increased commitment to address political, social and legal barriers and blockages to fast track the response in Africa. We have prioritised key and marginalised populations such as Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBTI), adolescent girls and young women, drug users, prisoners and sex workers.

    Excellencies;

    Ladies and Gentlemen;

  10. The focus on “Improving Quality of Life for People Living with HIV” in today’s deliberations sums up our concerns in this area of work. Our understanding, as Champions is that the quality of life for people living with HIV does not end at provision of treatment and resultant averting of death. It is much broader, including ending the stigma and discrimination in health facilities and homes, addressing discriminatory laws that hinder people from seeking medical care and support, and ending violence perpetrated against key populations especially LGBTI people and young women and girls.  These are some of the worrying factors that impact negatively on the quality of life of people living with HIV.

  11. Ladies and gentlemen, I need not overemphasize the fact that inclusivity in the AIDS response remains paramount. This is very key for us as the Champions. I can confirm that we have visited several of our countries in Africa and actively engaged national leaders, including Heads of State & Government, Parliamentarians; traditional and faith-based leaders, as well as leaders in civil society on these issues. We will continue to do so, as we believe that leadership holds the key to ending AIDS.

  12. As we engage with leaders at the national level, respectively, we raise our concerns on the barriers that we continue to face in ending AIDS. We have noted that these barriers come in many forms. They include laws that criminalize behaviour of key populations, especially LGBTI people, policies that deny girls and young women opportunities to seek healthcare, stigma, discrimination and violence that continue to plague our marginalised and vulnerable people.

  13. We are informed that the 6th Global Fund replenishment preparations are ongoing and urge for a strong reflection of these pertinent barriers in the plans.

  14. The international theme for this year’s World AIDS Day commemoration “know your status” is very close to our hearts. Hashtag know your status!

  15.  It is only when people know their status that new infections can be curbed, that people who are HIV positive can be linked to quality care and that those who are negative can remain so by accessing quality prevention services.

  16. Ladies and gentlemen, in 2001 I addressed the UN General Assembly and appealed to the international community to help save my country – Botswana - from annihilation by AIDS.

  17. People were dying in their thousands and without treatment. We have made commendable progress since then. However, we are informed through the latest UNAIDS 2018 report entitled “Knowledge is power” that the treatment gap continues to be unacceptably high. A large part of our population still does not know their HIV status, and cannot, therefore, take advantage of the life-saving treatment. Again, a part of our populations who are living with HIV, who should be on treatment, are not.

  18.  In addressing these complex issues that hinder the attainment of an AIDS free generation, as Champions, we continue to advocate to national, regional and international leaders and partners for increased effort and support in sustaining the response. We believe that increased commitment for funding the response, including increasing the domestic investment in the HIV response, are key to ending AIDS.

  19. The shrinking external resources coupled with the stagnant or slight increases in domestic investment in health and HIV and increasing new infections is resulting in a continually widening resource gap between what is required and what is available.

  20. African leaders must heighten their commitment to identify and expand domestic resources, protect funding available and optimize our investments by finding efficiencies. However, Africa cannot end AIDS alone. We as national and global leaders and partners have a responsibility to ensure that we continue to sustain the HIV and AIDS response if we are to win.

  21. The widespread mobilization efforts and solidarity to prevent infection and provide care to those already infected has slowed. This has lulled us into complacency because we assumed our achievement will last forever. As Champions we remain very concerned that if we continue in this manner and pace, AIDS will revert to where its challenges were insurmountable. In fact, we are beginning to see this emerge, we are seeing new infection rising in countries where they were already on a downward trend.

  22. Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, I wish to leave you with this message from the Champions, that we are in the remaining miles of our journey to ending AIDS and we cannot afford to compromise our achievements by disengaging or resting, since we know for sure that we will revert to where we were and lose all our gains. We implore our partners to recognise that AIDS is not yet over in Africa and that Africa cannot end AIDS by itself.

  23. AIDS is a global problem and needs to be addressed as such. The legacy of our leaders, especially parliamentarians, must be reflected in their progressive efforts for the betterment of our societies and the world.

 

Thank you.


The Champions

Festus Mogae  | former President of Botswana and Chairman of the Champions

Joyce Banda  | former President of Malawi

Edwin Cameron  | South Africa Supreme Court of Appeal Judge

Joaquim A. Chissano  | former President of Mozambique

Kenneth D. Kaunda  | former President of Zambia

Alpha Oumar Konaré  | former President of Mali 

Benjamin Mkapa  | former President of the United Republic of Tanzania

Kgalema Motlanthe  | former President of South Africa

Olusegun Obasanjo  | former President of Nigeria

Hifikepunye Pohamba  | former President of Namibia

Desmond Tutu  | Archbishop, Emeritus Cape Town & Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Speciosa Wandira-Kasibwe  | former Vice President of Uganda 

Miriam Were  | former Chairperson of the Kenya National AIDS Control Council

 

Champions urge world to "Leave No One Behind" in the fight to eradicate AIDS - 30 March 2017 Pretoria

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Press Release

Pretoria, South Africa | 31 March 2017— The Champions for an AIDS Free Generation have declared that to eradicate AIDS as a public health threat, the world must ‘Leave No One behind’. The declaration was made at a meeting of Pretoria-based Commonwealth diplomats and civil society experts in Pretoria, South Africa to discuss challenges around the rights and access to services of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex people as well as sex workers, adolescent girls and young women.


His Excellency Festus Mogae, Chairperson of the Champions and former President of Botswana, informed the meeting that to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, no one should be left behind and that “We can only do so by engaging everyone”. He acknowledged the cultural sensitivities of the discussions but told the meeting that, “We cannot afford taboos in this day and age”. Fellow Champion, His Excellency Joaquim Chissano urged governments to decriminalise consensual same-sex activity between adults and stressed that this was crucial to stopping the spread of HIV. Meanwhile, His Excellency Benjamin Mkapa, the former Tanzanian President, called for a greater focus on removing barriers to accessing education on sexual and reproductive issues for young people, especially adolescent girls between the ages 10 to 19 years old.
Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, also attended and supported the call. “Protection of LGBTI persons and ensuring their access to HIV and health services must remain at the heart of our intervention and advocacy. We therefore need to intensify our efforts in addressing stigma and discrimination in health care settings through sensitization of health care personnel.” He also added, “We need a new paradigm shift in addressing gender inequalities, gender based violence and inequalities in access to health services which are fueling the HIV epidemic among adolescent girls and young women.”


The meeting also heard from Mr Danilo Da Silva, Executive Director of Mozambican organisation Lambda who spoke about the recent progress of Mozambique in reforming its penal code to decriminalise same-sex relations and modernise colonial-era legislation. Discussing the event, Mr Da Silva said, “this begins the debate and the Champions’ leadership will hopefully lead to a more open AFRICAN THINK-TANKON HIV, HEALTH & SOCIALconversation about inclusion of the most at risk populations such as LGBT people and their access to health services in the African region.”


Justice Oagile Dingake of the High Court of Botswana, Co-Chair of the African Think-Tank on HIV, Health and Social Justice, also praised the dialogue, saying “As sensitive as the subject might be, it is time that we have, in the African continent, a frank and inclusive dialogue regarding LGBTI persons and their rights in accessing health services without discrimination. The fundamental principles of equality and non-discrimination must apply to every citizen”.


Steve Letsike, Executive Director of South African organisation Access Chapter 2 stressed the importance of creating safe spaces for dialogue. She stated that “Taboos create silence and silences create injustice. This leads to gender-based violence and violence to other groups”.

|  Ends |

Notes to Editors


This dialogue was convened by the Champions for an AIDS Free Generation in Africa, Access Chapter 2, The Royal Commonwealth Society, the Kaleidoscope Trust and the African Think Tank on HIV, Health and Social Justice.


The debate was held on 30th March 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.


In addition to Champions HE Festus Mogae, HE Joaquim Chissano and HE Benjamin Mkapa, attendees were drawn from Pretoria-based diplomats representing Commonwealth nations, civil society representatives and other experts.


Same-sex relations are still criminalised in 36 of 52 Commonwealth countries, largely as a legacy of laws imposed by the British Empire. The Champions for an AIDS Free Generation, established in 2008, is a group of former heads of states and eminent persons from Africa. The Champions’ 2017 to 2018 Strategic orientation focuses their advocacy on “Taking on complex issues to expand access to HIV services and leaving no one behind”. The orientation is premised on shifting focus from general HIV and AIDS advocacy to a directed effort on removing barriers to access and leaving no one behind. http://www.aidsfreechampions.org/

The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), founded in 1868, is a network of individuals and organisations committed to improving the lives and prospects of Commonwealth citizens around the world. Through youth empowerment, education and advocacy, the RCS promotes the value and values of the Commonwealth. www.thercs.org


Access Chapter 2 of Pretoria, was initiated to promote the human rights and empowerment of women and LGBTI people, and the participation of civil society organisation in governance and policy processes by creating space and coordinating platforms for engagement on governance, policy and accountability. http://www.ac2.org.za/index.html

The Kaleidoscope Trust was established in 2011. The Trust works to uphold the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people in countries where they do not have their equalrights and are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
www.kaleidoscopetrust.com/

The African Think-Tank on HIV, Health and Social Justice seeks to apply a human rights and social justice lens to the distinct African contextual realities of the ongoing HIV pandemic, with particular attention to people living with HIV and other key populations, including LGBTI persons.

Press Enquiries
Makha Mohale  | Executive Secretary of the Champions for an AIDS Free Generation in Africa  | mohalem@unaids.org

Nigeria Country Visit 25-26 May 2016

Champions in Nigeria ahead of global HIV/AIDS summit

From EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria


ABUJA, (CAJ News) – THREE eminent African leaders and UNAIDS Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation will embark on a two-day official visit to Nigeria to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s participation in the United Nations High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS.

The leaders that will be in Abuja are former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, and former Vice President of Uganda, Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe.

From tomorrow (Wednesday) the UNAIDS Champions will be meeting Buhari to discuss the HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria ahead of the United Nations High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS scheduled to take place from June 8 to 10 in New York.

The Champions will also meet members of the National Assembly, the leadership at the Ministry of Health, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS and the United Nations Country Team in Nigeria.

Nigeria has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS with over 3,4 million living with the condition.

There are between 150 000 and 200 000 deaths per year.

– CAJ News

Good Leadership is about people - Festus Mogae

Article

This article is courtesy of UN/AfricaRenewal online

7 December 2015

Festus Mogae served as president of the southern African country of Botswana from 1998 to 2008. He is the recipient of several international awards, including the 2008 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. In this interview held recently in New York with Tefo Pheage for Africa Renewal, the former president shared his thoughts on gay rights, the reform of the UN Security Council, the right to protect civilians in humanitarian crises and the fight against HIV/AIDS.  These are excerpts from the interview.

Africa Renewal: Let us start with the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Some African leaders are of the view that gay rights are un-African. They applauded Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe when he declared at the UN 70th General Assembly that Africans were not gay. As an advocate for LGBT rights, what is your view on Africa and human rights?

Fetus Mogae: It’s not surprising that we appear to be speaking from different corners of the mouth. Differences in opinion are welcome. While I admit that the West often push their agendas on Africa, which we must be wary of, I also believe that we must, as Africans, admit that the world is changing and we must move with the times. This means often abandoning some of our long-held convictions about life, if the need arises. In my long interaction with LGBT groups and extensive research, I have come to the realisation that we are limited in our knowledge and must be open to new discoveries. I have been converted; I used to hold the same beliefs as my counterparts. President Mugabe has said that he hates homosexuals and is on record as saying they are worse than pigs and dogs. That is still his position. Leadership is not always about you, it is about people and often circumstances. I call upon African leaders to open up to second generation rights.

You have on several occasions clashed with Botswana’s current leadership and religious organisations due to your persistent advocacy to decriminalise LGBT practices in Botswana. How has it been?

Obviously not easy, but when you believe in something, nothing should stop you. Botswana inherited a law that outlaws is against homosexuality. We have not repealed it, but generally we have not harassed or arrested these groups (gays and lesbians). But the international community would say it is not enough to say you haven’t made any arrests because if you have such a law, you or another leader may wake up the next day and apply its provisions. Our argument as a country has always been that we haven’t imprisoned any member of these specific groups.

Are you hopeful that LGBT rights will be respected in the near future in Africa?

Yes, some countries like South Africa have already paved the way and others are following slowly. Change takes time and often meets resistance in some quarters. One of the challenges we have in Africa is that even the traditional leaders or chiefs are against LGBT groups. I once participated in a debate organised by the BBC. Traditional leaders argued that they didn’t like homosexuals because young people will follow their ways. They said they wanted their children to get married, give birth and keep family names alive and bring bride prices, amongst many other benefits. I found this to be selfish and a wrong mentality towards LGBT rights.

The UN has been heavily criticised of late by some member states for being ineffective and undemocratic. Do you think the UN has lived up to expectations?

Just like any other organisation, the UN has its own problems and limitations. I think the problem is with the Security Council and its veto power. The UN would be better off and more democratic without veto powers. Even we as Africans have to advocate for total abolition of the veto, but not permanent Security Council membership. In that case, states will be more equal. It is without a doubt that at the UN, some member states are more equal than others. The concept of vetoes is outdated and is tarnishing the good name of the UN.

The African Union has been pushing for a seat on the Security Council but it seems to be unable  to agree on which country would occupy such a seat. What’s your comment on this?

I support Africa’s demand for an AU permanent seat on the Security Council. The question, however, is whether we are capable of nominating one of our own to represent us. You will recall that there is Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and others who want to join the Council. We should be advocating for a permanent seat for an African country that will take its mandate from all the AU heads of states.

How do we balance a country’s sovereignty with the right of outsiders to intervene particularly in times of economic failure, humanitarian crisis or internal conflicts?

As with everything else, it is always the difficulties at the margins. Even if a country is well governed, it could still face unprecedented levels of unemployment as we have here in Botswana. But that should not justify outside intervention. However, if a country starts to experience inter-ethnic conflicts, the international community could feel they cannot sit on the sidelines and watch people being butchered willy-nilly by those who once vowed to protect them. Sovereignty has limits like any other right. A leader cannot kill and harass his people and hide behind sovereignty. A true leader does not kill but protects his people. We still have leaders in Africa who think they are indispensable, larger than life and more important than their countries. That must stop. If a leader loses control, the world will and should intervene to save the people.

You are regarded globally as a champion in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In your travels throughout Africa, how do you assess this fight?

We have fought a good battle but we are still experiencing new infections. I think our worst enemy is complacency. You will recall that after the virus was first discovered in the 1980s in Africa, people were dying on a massive scale. We entered into a state of panic and too much stigma and discrimination was attached to the deadly virus. All that has since changed. But the biggest mistake will be to think we have won the war. In Botswana, we declared the virus an emergency. I took the HIV/AIDS fight from the Ministry of Health to the presidency for close and more authoritative monitoring, and it paid off. The situation has greatly stabilised, according to statistics, and I have learnt that the same has been happening in other countries.

Author: Tefo Pheage

View the original article here

Press statement by H.E. Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, member of the Champions for and AIDS Free Generation in Africa and Former Vice President of Uganda: On occasion of Champions visit to Sierra Leone

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Press Statement

Freetown, Sierra Leone | 3 December 2015

  1. We, the Champions for an AIDS Free Generation, visited Sierra Leone from December 29th to 3rd 2015, on a mission to share experiences and encourage leadership to renew and revitalize the response to the HIV epidemic.

  2. Honourable Minister of Health, members of the fourth estate, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you very warm greetings from the Champions for an AIDS Free Generation in Africa. We came to Sierra Leone to join you in commemorating World AIDS Day and to exchange views with national leadership, civil society leaders and partners on what can be done to arrest the spread of HIV and AIDS. We came to reach out to our peers and to find solutions together.

  3. From the recent success made in the Ebola response, we now know that ending AIDS in Sierra Leone is possible. The Champions are particularly happy that the Government has set bold and ambitious targets towards that direction.

  4. The Champions continue to be inspired and encouraged by the commitment and dedication to eliminating AIDS, as shown by our leaders and the people of Sierra Leone. We have followed the developments of the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa and marvelled at how the countries that bore the largest burden of the EVD outbreak finally eliminated it. Allow me, Honourable minister, to commend the leadership and people of Sierra Leone for their resilience and efforts in ending Ebola, and to convey our empathy to the nation for the loss of so many friends and family to this deadly disease.

  5. Honourable minister, media, ladies and gentlemen, I come from a country that had a prevalence of 1.5% twenty five years ago. Our complacency and attention to multiple priorities to rebuild Uganda gave space for surprise. The HIV epidemic blossomed, and our bed occupancy with AIDS patients tripled; the country was overwhelmed. Our development agenda was impeded.

  6. Today in Sierra Leone, our HIV incidence is seemingly very low compared to those of Eastern and Southern African countries. This can very easily result in complacency to act with less urgency, boldness and vigour. Based on the Ugandan experience, I will enjoin you all to be vigilant and act with even more determination than was invested in the Ebola response in order to avoid a similar surprise.

  7. We must act now with urgency and sustained effort, while the window of opportunity is still available. We must act decisively before the epidemic spiral out of our control. We must fast track our efforts, be innovative in our delivery, and be targeted in our approach to areas and populations with the greatest need and vulnerability in order to provide the lifesaving treatment, care and support that they deserve.

  8. I joined and interacted with you in Kenema during the World AIDS Day commemorations. I have visited service delivery points, I have met with Ministers and community leaders, I have listened to challenges faced by young people, people living with HIV, and key populations. Most importantly, I had an opportunity to interact with the His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma. Sierra Leone has done well in many areas of the HIV response, however there is so much more we can do in service coverage, scaling up programmes, and in providing quality and targeting of services.

  9. It gives us, Champions, great assurance that His Excellency the President is leading the AIDS response and that he is not alone in this fight. We stand in awe as we commend His Excellency the President for government’s allocation of 1.2 billion to the national AIDS response, announced during the World AIDS Day ceremony in Kenema. His Excellency further committed to free HIV and AIDS services for all, especially for children, pregnant women, and key populations.

  10. By being here, the Champions are reaching out in support to you and the leadership at all levels, including our development partners and the private sector, to join hands in achieving the set targets. We, the Champions, commit to stand by the people of Sierra Leone and to support this country to become a success story in achieving 100% coverage of all HIV services, eliminate new infections in children and vulnerable populations, and achieve zero HIV related discrimination by 2020. We hope to return at a later stage to follow up on the commitments made during this visit and provide more support and advocacy.

  11. We take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the warm welcome we received in Sierra Leone. As the first West African country visited by the Champions we believe Sierra Leone will pioneer the end of AIDS in the region.

  12. On behalf of all the Champions for an AIDS Free Generation, I thank you.