Kofi Annan appoints envoy on HIV/AIDS to Africa

New York- UN (PANA) -- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has announced the appointment of Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador and an advocate for Africa, as his Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa.
Lewis, who the OAU in 1998 appointed chairman of an international panel to investigate the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, was presented Friday to reporters.
Since 1999 when he ended his tenure as Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF Lewis has, among other things, been consulting with UNAIDS, the UN coordinating agency for AIDS.
He was Canada's ambassador to the UN between 1984 and 1988.
Lewis said he would be working with African leaders to help in their fight against HIV/AIDS, particularly in the light of their commitments at the African summit on AIDS held in Abuja, Nigeria, 25-26 April.
He plans to travel to Africa to meet with its leaders after the Special Session of the General Assembly on AIDS this month.
Giving a historical purview of the global efforts on AIDS, the UN envoy said the past few months have seen a major shift in global response, with the plummeting of the prices of AIDS drugs, the prioritisation of the fight against AIDS by African leaders, the forthcoming special session of the General Assembly on AIDS and the eminent launch of a global AIDS fund, among other activities.
"At no time, over the past 20 years, in dealing with this incomparable tragedy in Sub Saharan Africa, has there been such a sense of collective resolve and collective responsibility," he said.
He, however, said the challenge was still enormous, especially the need to mobilise policies and programmes, infrastructure and the human commitment to turn things around.
"But I truly believe that if a breakthrough is to be made, short of the discovery of a vaccine, then this is the moment in time.
It will be painfully slow and incremental, but this is the moment in time," he insisted.
Lewis said the culture of denial has ended in Africa with its leaders talking openly about the challenge the disease poses to their countries.
With 55 per cent of carriers of the AIDS virus women, the official said the disease was no less gender-based and must be approached from that point.
Women, he said, need be empowered to protect their sexuality while men also have to begin to behave responsibly.

01 june 2001 21:41:00

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