ICASA 2008: First Ladies of Africa speak out on stigma
04 December 2008
Stigma towards people living with HIV as well as the need to halt the spread of the disease were the main themes discussed by a gathering of First Ladies of Africa which took place earlier today in Dakar. Their panel discussion on the HIV response was moderated by Mr Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director.
On the occasion of the 15th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) taking place in Dakar this week, high-level delegates, civil society representatives and technical experts from across Africa and elsewhere are gathering for discussions under the theme “Africa’s Response: Face the facts.”
Madame Lobbo Traore Toure, First Lady of Mali; Madame Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda and Her Royal Highness, Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco participated in this afternoon’s event.
Thanking them for their presence and for their long-term personal engagement in the AIDS response, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Michel Sidibé spoke of how their commitment has enabled the creation of dialogue and political action around the issue of stigma and HIV prevention.
“As mothers, spouses and concerned citizens, you, First Ladies of Africa, have decided to take leadership on AIDS, speaking out against stigma and against violence against women and girls and advocating for the protection and rights of people living with HIV,” said Mr Sidibé.
At the meeting the panelists spoke of the importance of HIV prevention programmes and brought into focus priorities including the care of orphans and vulnerable children, preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission and access to paediatric treatment. The panellists also discussed how resources could be better mobilized for HIV programmes at country level.
The First Ladies shared their experiences of the HIV response through regional organizations such as the Organization of African First Ladies Against AIDS (OAFLA) and Synergies Africaines, as well as in their own countries through national organizations. The meeting was a chance to exchange perspectives and enhance collaboration in west Africa.
In 2007 the OAFLA launched the “Save the Unborn Child First Ladies Campaign” in the 50 OAFLA member countries. This campaign focuses on the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child. The prevention of new infections among young people, and protection of children affected by HIV from stigma were the aims of the “Treat every child as your own" campaign launched by OAFLA in 2005.
Yesterday during the conference opening ceremony, Princess Lalla Salma, spouse of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, received the prize of the 15th ICASA 2008 in recognition of her commitment to the fight against AIDS. The prize was presented by ICASA's chairman, Professor Soulaymane Mboup.