“Champions for an HIV-free generation” visit Mozambique

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“Champions for an HIV-free generation” visit Mozambique

12 February 2009

(front row from left) Professor Miriam Were, Excellency Mr Joaquim Chissano, His Excellency Mr Festus G. Mogae and Ms. Joyce Mhaville. (back row from left) Dr. Innocent Ntaganira (WHO AFRO), Mr Ndolamb Ngokwey (UN Resident Coordinator in Mozambique), Dr. Kereng Masupu (Champions Secretartiat), Dr. Antonica Hembe (SADC), Mr Luke Nkinsi (Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation), Mr Mauricio Cysne (UNAIDS) and Paula Mondlana (Africa Forum)
Credit: UNAIDS/Doug Johnson

The “Champions for an HIV-free Generation” - an organization of African leaders including former African presidents and other influential personalities – visited Mozambique as part of their mandate to mobilize leadership in Africa and to promote effective policies and action on HIV prevention.

The aim of the visit was to advocate for keeping AIDS high on the political agenda in Mozambique as well as to step up efforts to prevent the spread of HIV in the country. As outspoken opinion-leaders, the Champions sought to initiate a dialogue in changing behavioural and societal norms.

“The Champions realize that stronger, more visionary leadership must come from within the continent most affected by this epidemic. We are here to reach our peers, our African brothers and sisters, to find solutions together,” said His Excellency Mr Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana.

The Champions realize that stronger, more visionary leadership must come from within the continent most affected by this epidemic. We are here to reach our peers, our African brothers and sisters, to find solutions together.

His Excellency Mr Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana

Led by Mr. Mogae, the Champions met with Mozambique’s President Armando Guebuza, Prime Minister Luisa Diogo and several cabinet members, as well as with leaders of civil society organizations, development partners and the media. Through their discussions, the Champions shared regional experiences in fighting the disease and urged the scale-up of effective HIV prevention strategies.

Other Champions taking part in the visit included His Excellency, Mr. Joaquim Chissano, former President of the Republic of Mozambique; Professor Miriam Were, chairperson of the Kenya National AIDS Control Council; and Ms. Joyce Mhaville, chairperson of the Steering Committee of the African Broadcast Media Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (ABMP).

Signing book
(from left) Excellency Mr Joaquim Chissano, Professor Miriam Were, Ms. Joyce Mhaville, (seated) His Excellency Mr Festus G. Mogae
Credits: UNAIDS/Doug Johnson

"The Champions for a HIV Free Generation is an extraordinary initiative. The Champions play a pivotal role in advocating for the scale up of key prevention activities that can have the greatest impact such as multiple concurrent partnerships and male circumcision," said UNAIDS Country Coordinator Mauricio Cysne.

Male circumcision

One of the priority issues that the Champions brought to Mozambique is the subject of male circumcision. The Champions asked the government to consider the rapid scale-up of male circumcision as a priority under the country’s current comprehensive HIV prevention plan. The Champions pointed out the compelling scientific evidence, globally and even locally, that male circumcision can reduce HIV infections greatly.

Furthermore, they also stressed the fact that male circumcision should always be considered as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package and that the communication strategies around male circumcision are critical to prevent men from developing a false sense of security and engage in high-risk behaviours that could undermine the partial protection provided by male circumcision.

Multiple partnerships and concurrent relationships

Multiple partnerships and concurrent relationships were other issues brought forward by the Champions. In Mozambique, as in other parts of the southern Africa region, many people have more than one sexual partner. Close sexual networks are formed when men and women have multiple sexual partners or concurrent relationships—ongoing relationships with more than one intimate partner overlapping for weeks, months or years. If someone in this network acquires HIV it increases the chance of everyone else who is part of this network becoming infected.

Interview (from left) His Excellency Mr Joaquim Chissano, Professor Miriam Were, Ms. Joyce Mhaville and His Excellency Mr Festus G. Mogae
Credits: UNAIDS/Doug Johnson

The Champions emphasized the importance of developing a nation-wide campaign to reduce multiple concurrent partners and to demonstrate strong leadership and engagement of prominent persons seen as role models. These recommendations come shortly after a new national HIV prevention strategy has been approved by the Mozambican government, and the Champions advocated for keeping the momentum for addressing issues of sexual behaviours that can increase the risk of HIV infection.

Social transformation

A social transformation of gender roles and relations is already under way in Mozambique, which can be seen from the recent legal changes. The Legislation on the Protection of People Living with HIV Against Stigma and Discrimination was promulgated in January 2009 and a new Domestic Violence Bill is underway which will improve women’s ability to negotiate sex and to prevent HIV infection. The Champions stressed that the government should fully support the development and implementation of these new legal mechanisms.

Finally the Champions pointed out the necessity for sustainable funding of the AIDS response and offered to share successful experiences from other countries in the region on effective allocation of resources and private/public partnerships.

More than 1.6 million people are estimated to be living with HIV in Mozambique. The disease, which disproportionately affects women and children, is estimated to claim more than 92,000 lives each year. Among the main drivers of the epidemic in Mozambique are large numbers of multiple and concurrent partnerships, low levels of circumcision and gender inequality.

Background on the Champions

The Champions for an HIV-Free Generation are highly visibly leaders and outspoken advocates for those affected and infected by HIV. Led by H. E. Mr. Mogae as chairperson, the founding members include four former African presidents, a Nobel Laureate, and other high-level African leaders from different walks of life. The Champions focus their efforts in sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than two-thirds of all people living with HIV. With a focus on proven HIV prevention practices, the Champions embrace and promote key policy, legal, cultural and behavioral practices and messages that help accelerate the social outcomes needed to achieve an HIV-free generation.

The collaborating partners of this initiative are the World Bank, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and PEPFAR.

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