Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Target all Malawians including gays in the fight against HIV and Aids - Elton John

Elton John - Photo from Aids 2012:
 International Aids Conference Facebook page

Singer Elton John praised President Joyce Banda for showing compassion to all Malawians including gays as a step forward to effectively stopping the spread of HIV. He also strongly advised African countries to curb new infections with Men having sex with men (MSMs) by not stoning them or passing laws against homosexuality.

Elton John said this when he delivered a keynote address at the just ended 19th annual International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC. He appealed to the public to stop marginalizing individuals with HIV and Aids.

Many attending the conference also commended President Banda for including the provisions regarding indecent practices and unnatural acts contained in sections 137A and 153 – 156 of the Penal Code as part of laws referred back to the Law Commission which would be repealed “as a matter of urgency” during her State of the Nation address in May.

The said act criminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults making it illegal. Although a local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community exists in Malawi and also pays taxes and votes among other things, they came under heavy attack and risked being arrested during the previous Mutharika administration.

Traditional leaders and many from the religious community and ordinary Malawians have also expressed their hatred for local gays arguing it’s against the country's culture, traditions and religious beliefs.

But in his speech Elton John called for love and compassion when targeting all people in the fight against HIV and Aids including local gay African communities.

“Do you want to curb new infections with MSMs in Africa? You’re not going to do it by stoning gay men and passing laws against homosexuality. For Christ’s sake this is the 21st century, show compassion to all of your people like President Joyce Banda of Malawi does.

“If you show compassion, no one will be forced into the shadows, if you show compassion no one will be afraid to seek treatment. Do you want to stop the epidemic in South Africa, then show compassion by telling those living with HIV to be proud of knowing their status, that’s what the government in South Africa is doing and it’s working,” explained Elton John.

The pop star also told the audience that all people deserve love and dignity and that the Aids disease is caused by a virus but the Aids epidemic is “fueled by stigma.” He also appealed for love and support for drug users in the fight against the disease by among other things giving them clean needles instead of “locking them up and leaving them to die”.

"Shame and stigma prevent them from getting help, from getting treatment, from protecting themselves in the first place. I felt that shame before- it almost killed me. It's killing people all over the world right now. We have to stop it. We have to replace the shame with love. We have to replace the stigma with compassion. No-one should be left behind. That is how we will end the plague," John said.

The International Aids Society annual meeting in Washington was the first such event in the US since 1990, and follows a 2009 decision by the Obama administration to drop a standing US ban on HIV-positive people entering the country.

"HIV + women can decide when or not to have children" - Hillary Clinton

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the recent International Aids Conference revealed that women in Sub-Saharan Africa account for 60 percent of those living with HIV and want to protect themselves and have access to adequate health care.

Clinton was speaking at the International Aids conference which took place from July 22 -27 in Washington DC under the theme “Turning the Tide Together”.

The US Secretary of State said "every woman should be able to decide when and whether to have children. This is true whether she is HIV-positive or not. And I agree with the strong message that came out of the London Summit on Family Planning earlier this month. There should be no controversy about this. None at all.” 

Clinton also announced more than $150 million dollars in new funding to fight HIV/ Aids adding that the US is behind the goal of achieving an Aids-free generation which includes eliminating mother to child transmission by 2015.

Other areas include also addressing the needs of those highest at risk of contracting HIV including sex-workers, men who have sex with male partners and those injecting drugs.

The US Secretary of State explained that her country will work towards the Aid-free generation on three fronts mainly treatment as prevention, stopping mother-to-child transmission of HIV and promoting voluntary adult male circumcision known to reduce the risk of transmission by more than 60 percent.

She also revealed that women in Sub-Saharan Africa account for 60 percent of those living with HIV and want to protect themselves and have access to adequate health care.

“Every woman should be able to decide when and whether to have children. This is true whether she is HIV-positive or not. And I agree with the strong message that came out of the London Summit on Family Planning earlier this month. There should be no controversy about this. None at all,” stressed Clinton.

She added that gender-based violence also needs to be addressed as it puts women at higher risk for contracting the virus. The US has also invested more than $90 million in research on microbicides to help close the health gap between women and men and create healthier families.

They will also among other things coordinate with the Global Fund against Aids, tuberculosis and malaria and the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar).

“Let me begin by defining what we mean by an Aids-free generation. It is a time when, first of all, virtually no child anywhere will be born with the virus. Secondly, as children and teenagers become adults, they will be at significantly lower risk of ever becoming infected than they would be today no matter where they are living. And third, if someone does acquire HIV, they will have access to treatment that helps prevent them from developing Aids and passing the virus on to others.

“So yes, HIV may be with us into the future until we finally achieve a cure, a vaccine, but the disease that HIV causes need not be with us,” explained Clinton.

She announced that Pepfar would provide an additional $40 million to support South Africa’s plans to provide voluntary medical circumcisions for almost half a million boys and men in the coming year and how Kenya,Tanzania and Zimbabwe are tackling circumcision.

In Zambia, the US government will help step up their efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission, get more Zambians on treatment and support “a massive scale-up of male circumcision as well” which is expected to drive down the number of new sexually transmitted infections there by more than 25 percent over the next 5 years.

“As the number of new infections in Zambia goes down, it will be possible to treat more people than are becoming infected each year. So we will, for the first time, get ahead of the pandemic there. And eventually, an Aids-free generation of Zambians will be in sight,” added Clinton.


Photo taken from Aids 2012: XIX International Aids Conference Facebook Page 

Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of Sapitwa and the Sirius star.

.....watch this space.


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