20 October 2010

Zambia: Don't Make HIV a Crime - Mogae

Photo: Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Festus Gontebanye Mogae former president of Botswana.

FORMER president of Botswana Festus Mogae has called on leaders not to pass laws that criminalise infection of HIV/AIDS as that will not help in fighting the scourge.

Speaking when he called on President Rupiah Banda at State House yesterday, Mr Mogae who is also the chairperson of the Champions for an HIV Free Generation noted that leaders should fight stigmatisation instead of criminalising HIV infection.

He was happy with the political will that the Zambian Government had continued to show in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Mr Mogae said the problem of HIV/AIDS negatively affected the continent and Southern Africa in particular and now was the time for leaders to unite in accelerating efforts aimed at reducing infections.

"It is vital that we engage the Church, parliamentarians, traditional leaders in our efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS," Mr Mogae who was flanked by first Republican president Kenneth Kaunda said.

Dr Kaunda is one of the champions for an HIV Free Generation that also include Speciosa Wandira, a former vice-president of Uganda and former chairperson of the Kenya National AIDS control council Miriam Were.

And President Banda hailed Mr Mogae and his team for leading efforts aimed at fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa.

"We as leaders need to intensify our efforts in fighting HIV/AIDS; its sad there is donor fatigue towards this fight but we shall not relent and I am happy that our former heads of State are championing the fight," President Banda said.

He said he failed to understand people that engaged in homosexuality and hailed calls not to formulate laws aimed at criminalising the infection of HIV/AIDS.

President Banda was saddened that some donors championed homosexuality on account of human rights.

Dr Kaunda called for concerted efforts in tackling the scourge which he said, was a growing problem while Professor Were called for the involvement of the community in fighting it.

The Champions also called on the Speaker of the National Assembly Amusaa Mwana-mwambwa.

The Speaker hailed the work that the former heads of State were undertaking in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

And at a luncheon hosted for the Champions by the United States embassy, US Ambassador Mark Storella said it was possible for Zambia to reduce new HIV infections by 50 per cent by the year 2015.

Mr Storella said the Government's goal as articulated in the country's soon-to-be launched national AIDS strategic framework was an ambitious one and possible to achieve.

He said the Champions for an HIV Free Generation symbolised the leadership necessary to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS and to mitigate the impact of the epidemic in Zambia and the region. He said this year alone, the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) had allocated US$276 million to HIV/AIDS programmes in Zambia.

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