The top United Nations official on HIV/AIDS will address tomorrow over 1,000 political leaders from every part of India, expected to convene for the first time ever in New Delhi for a national convention where they will sign a declaration underlining their personal commitment to fight the pandemic.
“This convention is an historic event,” said the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Peter Piot. “Never before, in any nation of the world, has there been such a large and committed gathering of leaders from every level of decision-making, dedicated to the common cause of fighting AIDS.”
Organized by the Parliamentary Forum on HIV/AIDS, the two-day National Convention for the elected representatives will be inaugurated tomorrow by Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It brings together government ministers, parliamentarians, legislators and mayors among other delegates.
Dr. Piot said political leadership is a vital tool in turning back the epidemic. The leaders of national political parties are expected to sign a declaration, entitled “Leadership in Combating HIV/AIDS.”
“In making laws, mobilizing resources and determining policy choices, government leaders have the power to effectively fight the epidemic,” said Oscar Fernandes, Convenor of the Parliamentary Forum. “By speaking out on HIV/AIDS, their messages can be heard loud and clear at all levels of governance.”
India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) estimates that at the end of 2001, 3.97 million people in the country were infected, making India the country after South Africa with the second-largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS. Over the past year alone, at least 300,000 Indians were newly infected.