Dr. Speciosa attends Champions’ re-launch Johannesburg, South Africa, 13th April 2015: Former Uganda Vice President, currently a Member of the AU Panel of the Wise Dr. Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, has today challenged Africa’s Ministries of Health to become true stewards of the health sector instead of ministries of disease.
She was speaking at the re-launch of the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation held at Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg South Africa. She urged African governments to pay attention to building on holistic health systems that take into account different stakeholders dealing with the social determinants of health and not just medical systems if the fight again HIV/AIDS is to come to fruition. The re-launch ceremony is being attended by former African Heads of State: H.E Festus Mogae (Botswana), Chairman; H.E Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia); H.E Joyce Banda (Malawi); H.E Joachim Chissano (Mozambique); H.E Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania); H. E Alpha Konare (Mali); and, H.E Kgalema Motlanthe (South Africa).
While unanimously agreeing to renew their efforts towards the fight against AIDS, one by one, the leaders echoed their voices in support of the Champions’ cause that kick-started in 2008; “Coming together is extremely useful. We should pick out key points and help move Africa in healthy way,” Says Kenneth Kaunda “Let us not ignore traditional healers, let us explore and appreciate what they know”, says President Joachim Chissano.
President Alpha Konare called on African governments to unite and start producing Anti-retroviral drugs locally. This would bring down the costs and enhance easy access to treatment. “We must persist in getting current leaders on board,” Says President Benjamin Mkapa. He adds that the Champions should play a key role across the continent during World Aids Day celebration to give it more visibility.
“Our New approach is to recruit new champions including the youths, private sector, religious leaders and even footballers. This will help to tap into new ideas in the fight against AIDS,” says President Festus Mogae President Joyce Banda took cognizance of the need to get men to health facilities as a way to achieve collective success and not to forget role of poverty in fuelling the epidemic.
Former South Africa President Kgalema Motlanthe saluted the Champions for playing a pivotal role in addressing the HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in his country. In the aftermath of their intervention, over 2Million South Africans got tested. The champions vowed to focus their intervention on young people, especially women from the age of 16 to ensure an AIDS free generation that will fuel Africa’s development.
Speaking on behalf of the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Ambassador Deborah L. Birx noted Uganda’s decline in the fight against AIDS. Once the reference point on the African continent, Uganda is now said to register 40% of the new infections among adults. Deborah added that 30% of the new infections are in young people, a figure far higher than ever before. This concern was echoed by Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS who stressed the critical role of the Champions in arresting the march of HIV/AIDS.