Press Release

Ending Gender Bias Is Key to HIV/AIDS Prevention Dr. Nafis Sadik Tells African Leaders

7 December 2000
Author: UNFPA

Addis Ababa - "Gender bias is the friend of HIV infection," United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Dr. Nafis Sadik said today at the African Development Forum 2000. Teaching boys and men to respect women, and empowering women to protect themselves, are essential to prevention, "our first and most potent weapon against the pandemic," she told leaders from throughout the continent.

The high-level forum on "AIDS: The Greatest Leadership Challenge", heard statements from three African presidents, three prime ministers and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as well as several UN agency heads including Dr. Sadik.

Over 1,500 representatives of African governments and civil society took part in the 5-day meeting, which closed today. It was called to marshal a new level of political commitment and develop more effective strategies for combatting HIV/AIDS in Africa and mitigating its impact. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) organized the forum in conjunction with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and its seven cosponsoring organizations, including UNFPA.

In the plenary, which featured strong statements by such African luminaries as former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and former Mozambican first lady Graca Machel, and in breakout sessions, speakers called for a war-like mobilization against HIV/AIDS and stressed the need for Africa to make use of its own assets in fighting the disease.

African Development Forum (ADF) Web site >>

Speakers this morning included President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, President Festus Mogae of Botswana and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Secretary-General Annan noted that the international response to the devastation caused by HIV/AIDS in Africa has been too little and too late. "Finally, finally we are galvanized," he said. "When history writes of the moment that was seized, let them look back at the ADF 2000 and say, ‘This is where the breakthrough occurred.’"

Secretary-General launches international partnership to fight AIDS in Africa >>

In the same session, Mr. K.Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary of the ECA, paid tribute to Dr. Sadik, who is retiring at the end of this month. The UNFPA Executive Director has been a powerful advocate for population and development policies and women’s empowerment, he noted. She is "a tremendous role model" and "a compass among her senior colleagues in the UN system".

In the afternoon plenary, Dr. Sadik outlined essential elements of prevention efforts to counter "this newest threat to development, stability and peace in Africa."

"Nothing is more important than a truly national approach to HIV prevention, reflecting countries’ own priorities and the full range of their cultural variety," she said. "Successful prevention programmes recognize women’s multiple vulnerability; women need protection against HIV and they need the power to protect themselves." Reproductive health information and services must reach young people, she stressed, "including those who are not married. We cannot pretend that teenagers are not sexually active."

"We must teach young men and boys from earliest childhood that women are their equals and worthy of respect," and "we must renew our determination to stamp out early and forced marriage," Dr. Sadik declared.

Statement by Dr Nafis Sadik: "Implementing the Consensus" >>

During her stay in Ethiopia, the UNFPA Executive Director also met with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to discuss the Fund’s programme of assistance to the country.

Contact Information:

William A. Ryan

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