AIDS and famine are cruel combination, Deputy Secretary-General says
As AIDS has killed millions of young men and women in Africa, it is now making it "intolerably difficult" for some countries in the southern part of the continent to resist famine, weakening coping mechanisms that enable populations to fight back, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said today as the United Nations marked World AIDS Day, which is officially observed on 1 December.
“It is hard to imagine a more cruel or crippling combination,” the Deputy Secretary-General said at a panel discussion on the issue at UN Headquarters. Held under the theme, “Live and Let Live,” the event was attended by HIV/AIDS activists, including actress Whoopi Goldberg, and moderated by Ann Curry, anchor of the “Today” show in the United States. It also featured a special appearance by Kami, the HIV-positive Muppet from “Takalani Sesame,” South Africa’s production of the children’s television show “Sesame Street.”
This year's campaign slogan was a challenge to everyone to ensure that all people, with or without HIV, realize their human rights and live in dignity, the Deputy Secretary-General said. "It challenges leaders everywhere to demonstrate by example that speaking up about AIDS is a point of pride, not a source of shame," she said.
In his message to the discussion, the President of the General Assembly, Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, said there was a determined commitment among the UN family to enhance coordination and transparency and mobilize the world community to the challenge of HIV/AIDS.
The personal commitment of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and that of the General Assembly had effectively focussed the world's attention to the virus. "Many countries that were previously in denial that this epidemic existed in their territories have now openly acknowledged the problem," he said.
Ms. Curry recalled her interview in the early 1980s with an AIDS patient "who trembled when I shook his hands to say goodbye," adding that there is so much needless suffering because of ignorance. "It is time for the stigma to end," she said.
Expressing shock that the Caribbean region and the Russian Federation had high infection rates, Ms. Goldberg said there was a need to give adequate and truthful information about the disease so people could make wise and conscious decisions. "HIV/AIDS affects all of us and there is no more time to be scared of it. It is time to stop it," she said.