Leadership and AIDS: Festus Mogae

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Leadership and AIDS: Festus Mogae

20 October 2008

Festus Mogae the former President of Botswana was awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership on 20 October 2008. 

On 20 October 2008 Festus Mogae the former President of Botswana was named the winner of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

Announcing the 2008 Ibrahim Laureate, Kofi Annan, the Chair of the Prize Committee, said: “President Mogae’s outstanding leadership has ensured Botswana’s continued stability and prosperity in the face of an AIDS pandemic which threatened the future of his country and people.”

“The former President of Botswana has demonstrated what leadership – and perseverance – can achieve in the face of extreme challenges – the Ibrahim Prize represents a pinnacle in Mr Mogae’s efforts to stop the spread of HIV, not only in Botswana but throughout Africa. He is a true visionary and an exemplar to other leaders around the world,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot.

In what ways has Mogae’s leadership made a difference in Botswana’s AIDS response?

Festus Mogae was President of Botswana from 1998 to 2008 and made the AIDS response one of the top priorities of his administration. Botswana is a small prosperous country yet with 24% of adults aged 15-49 estimated to be living with HIV; the country has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates. More than one third of all deaths in children under 5 are due to AIDS.

Although HIV is such a heavy toll on the population, thanks to government leadership and the dedication of considerable domestic resources to HIV, the country has made significant progress in its response to the disease.

Botswana was the first African country to embark on a programme of rolling out free antiretrovirals to all its citizens living with HIV in need and in 2007 delivered HIV treatment to more than 90% of those who need them. In addition to treatment, it has made impressive strides in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission and caring for children orphaned by AIDS.

The country has also been a leader in expanding voluntary HIV testing and counselling – the offer of HIV testing has been routine in all health care settings since 2004.

HE President Festus Mogae (left) met Ms. Ann Veneman UNICEF Executive Director and Dr Peter Piot UNAIDS Executive Director on their official visit to Botswana in October 2007. Credits: UNAIDS

A key catalyst for progress in Botswana’s AIDS response was the establishment in 2000 of the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership (ACHAP). This innovative collaboration to improve access to needed HIV services is a country-led public/private development partnership between the Government of Botswana, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., Inc. and the Merck Company Foundation.

Writing at the time of the launch of ACHAP, then President Mogae emphasized the need to implement care and treatment alongside a prevention drive to look after people already living with HIV in order to ensure their continued contribution to family life and ongoing economic growth in the country.

“Champions for an HIV-free Generation”

Festus Mogae stepped down from the Presidency earlier this year but he continues to be committed to AIDS leadership in Africa.

On 5 August 2008 he launched “Champions for an HIV-free Generation,” a group of renowned African leaders calling for their peers to rethink and step up efforts to prevent the spread of HIV. The collaborating partners of this initiative are the World Bank, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and PEPFAR.

The Champions, highly visible leaders from all over Africa and different walks of life, will mobilize leadership in Africa and advocate effective policies and action on HIV prevention. As outspoken opinion-leaders, they will seek to initiate a dialogue in changing behavioural and societal norms. This year’s World AIDS Day will celebrate the theme of leadership. The award to Festus Mogae of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is in recognition of his good governance and the legacy of former President should inspire other leaders in scaling up access in their countries to HIV prevention, treatment and care services.

Mo Ibrahim Foundation

 The Mo Ibrahim Foundation was launched in October 2006 and is committed to supporting great African leadership. The Prize Committee is chaired by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and comprised of Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and Nobel Laureate; Aïcha Bah Diallo, former Minister of Education in Guinea and Director of Basic Education at UNESCO; Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Laureate; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity and former Prime Minister of Tanzania.