U.N. Special Envoy Stephen Lewis ‘Hopeful, Optimistic’ About Kenya’s New Administration’s Commitment To Fighting AIDS
U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis on Friday said he has a "greater degree of hope and optimism" about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya after seeing recently elected President Mwai Kibaki's "commitment to fighting the disease and educating the country's youth," the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 5/3). Last month Lewis visited Kenya and met with Kibaki, the country's National AIDS Control Council, members of the U.N. country team and the ministers of health, education and information. He said, "Where HIV/AIDS is concerned, the change [between Kibaki's administration and that of former president Daniel arap Moi's administration] is night and day." He added that under arap Moi, senior officials' focus on HIV/AIDS was "perfunctory" but under Kibaki their focus seems to be "intense, committed to confronting the pandemic, determined to put policies and programs in place and consumed by the recognition that every single family in Kenya was affected in some ways by the ravages of HIV/AIDS" (Press briefing text, 5/2). Lewis lauded Kibaki's decision to eliminate primary school fees, which has allowed millions of children affected by HIV/AIDS to attend school, and he added that similar efforts should be launched across Africa, Reuters reports. "Why should such vast numbers of children, who have lost one or both parents to AIDS, who have little if anything to eat, who have no guarantee of shelter, no guarantee of health or nutritional care ... why on top of it all should they be denied the right to go to school and the prospect of a future simply because they're impoverished?" Lewis said (Adler, Reuters, 5/2). He added that considering the new administration's commitment to fighting the disease, "there is no reason in the world ... why Kenya cannot become the next Uganda" (Associated Press, 5/3). Uganda has been successful in lowering its AIDS prevalence rate, which many say is due to political will power and the use of the "ABC" -- abstain, be faithful, use condoms -- prevention method (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.