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.