Saturday, August 19, 2006

Stephen Lewis at 2006 AIDS conference

Canadian Stephen Lewis's five-year tenure as UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa ends in December 2006.

In a CBC interview in answer to a question on why he was leaving, Lewis acknowledged that it was not his choice, that the UN was probably tired of "apologizing for Stephen". In my view Stephen Lewis's "sin" is telling the truth even when it is uncomfortable. His departure as Special Envoy for the UN will be a great loss, and says much about the UN, none of it flattering.

Below is some of what Stephen Lewis said in his address at the closing session of the AIDS Conference in Toronto on Aug. 18, 2006. It provides a good overview of global AIDS issues.

1. Aid agencies spend too much money and time on bureaucratic pursuits rather than devoting resources to work that benefits HIV\AIDS victims: "What has to happen is that we place a temporary moratorium on the endless, self-indulgent proliferation of meetings, seminars, roundtables, discussion groups, task forces ad nauseum.... "

2. "Abstinence-only programs do not work."

3. "Harm reduction programmes do work. Needle exchange and methadone treatment save lives."

4. "One of the issues that received an insufficient airing at this conference is sexual violence against women."

5. "There is an ongoing epidemic of child sexual abuse.

"6. " In Africa, the grandmothers are the unsung heroes of the continent: these extraordinary, resilient, courageous women, fighting through the inconsolable grief of the loss of their own adult children, becoming parents again in their fifties and sixties and seventies and eighties."

7. "It [South Africa] is the only country in Africa whose government continues to propound theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state. Between six and eight hundred people a day die of AIDS in South Africa. The government has a lot to atone for. I'm of the opinion that they can never achieve redemption."

8. "The financial promises made at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles one year ago, are already unraveling. ... It is imperative that the delegates here assembled never let the G8 countries off the hook."

9. "In my view ... the most vexing and intolerable dimension of the pandemic is what's happening to women ... one area that makes me feel helpless and most enraged...."

"Whether it's the apparatus of the United Nations, including the agencies... the demeaning diminution of women is everywhere evident."

"And those examples are but proxies for the wider world, particularly the developing world, where freedom from sexual violence, the right to sexual autonomy, to sexual and reproductive health, social and economic independence, and even the whiff of gender equality are barely approximated."

"It's a ghastly, deadly business, this untrammeled oppression of women in so many countries on the planet."

10. "For my own part, when I leave my post of Envoy at the end of the year, I have asked that my successor be an African, but most important, an African woman."

For the complete speech, see Lewis - AIDS 2006

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.