Global perspective Human stories

Do not let fixation with war derail fight against AIDS in Africa, UN envoy pleads

Do not let fixation with war derail fight against AIDS in Africa, UN envoy pleads

Stephen Lewis
It would be an "unspeakable humanitarian tragedy" if the rumour of war, or an actual war, in Iraq subverts the struggle against AIDS in Africa, a United Nations envoy warned today.

"It would be the ultimate triumph of conflict over the human imperative," Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, said during a press briefing on the trip to southern Africa he took with James Morris, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the humanitarian crisis in Africa.

Drawing attention to the report of the mission, which went to Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe in January, Mr. Lewis said it contained very strong and uncompromising language because there was no room for ambiguity- 40 million people worldwide, 30 million of them in Africa, were at risk due to the AIDS epidemic.

"HIV/AIDS is the most fundamental underlying cause of the southern African crisis," he stated, referring to the on-going debate about the role of drought in the food shortage. The findings during the mission, he said, conclusively support the new variant of a different kind of food shortage and agricultural decimation significantly caused by HIV/AIDS.

Quoting from the report, Mr. Lewis said, "the apparent lack of urgency, leadership, direction and responsibility in the response of the United Nations, national governments, and the international community to the pandemic's effects on women and girls is deeply troubling."

Mr. Lewis said he was "disconsolate" about the lack of follow-up or implementation to the gender policy discussions, saying, "Women are terrifyingly vulnerable." He said he was also extremely concerned about the extraordinary proliferation of orphans in Africa and stressed that the focus must be on finding a solution to that problem.



of press briefing