HIV/AIDS Presents ‘Opportunity’ for Social Change, UNAIDS Chief Sidibe Says
Although HIV/AIDS poses significant challenges, the disease also presents opportunities for social change, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said recently during a visit to Senegal, AFP/Google.com reports. Sidibe said people should not regard HIV/AIDS simply as a problem but rather should use HIV/AIDS as an "entry point" to discuss social issues and "bring about changes in legislation." According to Sidibe, HIV/AIDS presents a "political opportunity to trigger profound changes in society, to talk about difficult issues like sex education, homophobia and human rights issues in general, like the position of women in society." He added that he regards UNAIDS "as a political agent which has to demand change" rather than as an organization with "clearly outlined programs." He said, "UNAIDS has to be the voice for the voiceless, it should have political courage."
In addition to presenting opportunities for social changes, HIV/AIDS garners financial resources that could contribute to improvements in local health care systems, AFP/Google.com reports. According to Sidibe, of the $25 billion needed to fund universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, $9 billion is "earmarked for overhauling health care systems." He said that stakeholders should "make sure" that such funding is not used exclusively for HIV/AIDS programs, adding that these resources "could be a way to transform and rebuild society around the social needs of the population."
Sidibe also discussed efforts to secure additional financial resources for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which currently is seeking $4 billion for the period between 2008 and 2010. According to Sidibe, stakeholders "need to continue to mobilize resources and redouble our efforts to make sure the Global Fund is totally financed." However, rather than pressure international donors to contribute funding during the economic downturn, UNAIDS should consider how to optimize partnerships, Sidibe said. He added that the agency should "make sure that we can demand a certain performance, with an accountability and obligation to produce results" in addressing HIV/AIDS. Sidibe said, "Universal access to care, treatment and prevention is my number one priority," adding that "money is essential" to achieve this goal.
According to AFP/Google.com, Sidibe during his visit also met with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and discussed the recent prison sentences of nine Senegalese men who have sex with men who belonged to an HIV/AIDS advocacy organization (Parayre, AFP/Google.com, 4/9).