|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by President of Nigeria on General Assembly
High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS
Tackling the myriad challenges posed by the HIV/AIDS pandemic required less finger-pointing about which Governments had not met their commitments and more sincere efforts to promote global cooperation and secure new and innovative sources of funding, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of Nigeria said at Headquarters today.
“The only issue is that we are not receiving what we were supposed to receive,” said the newly elected Nigerian leader at a press conference held after the opening of the General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. “That is why we, as African countries, are trying to [identify] other sources of funding for AIDS-related expenses, to compliment whatever we get from our development partners.” Formally designated the High-Level Meeting on the progress achieved in realizing the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, the event runs through 10 June. (See also Press Release GA/11086)
At the press conference, moderated by Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, President Jonathan was responding to reporters asking about his “biggest disappointments” with the international community’s efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS over the past decade. He said that, while reporters probably wanted to hear him put developed nations on the spot for not living up to their promises, such pledges might have been based on estimated income. “We need to look at other ways to mobilize funds […] I don’t believe in disappointment; if you find yourself in a situation, you have to find the best way to get out of it,” he said.
The President said his country had its “fair share” of HIV/AIDS-related challenges, with 3 million people living with the virus. The Government was determined to reduce the prevalence rate, as well as the number of new transmissions, he stressed, while acknowledging that in the early days after the discovery of the virus, the Nigerian Government “was not so committed”, as many believed it only affected men who have sex with men, drug users and other people “with a certain background”. Since 2001, however, Nigeria had made a concerted effort to tackle all aspects of HIV/AIDS, he said.
That effort had yielded a drop in the prevalence rate from 5.8 per cent of the total population to 4.1 per cent, the President continued. “We believe that by the  deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, we will bring that number down drastically.” That was why participating in the Assembly’s high-level review, and in yesterday’s Security Council meeting on the impact of HIV/AIDS on international peace and security, was so important. (See Press Release SC/10272)
Indeed, a new President might ordinarily have been unable to attend such meetings, he said, pointing out that he had only been inaugurated on 29 May and had “yet to even set up Government or appoint my ministers”. But the issue of HIV/AIDS was “quite critical”, especially in terms of national health-care priorities, since infected individuals were highly prone to contracting other diseases. “Sick people cannot play a significant role in building the economy of a nation,” he added. There were also security aspects, since Nigerian soldiers, participating in peacekeeping activities around the world, must be made aware of the disease’s impact.
Responding to a series of questions about national political issues, particularly the deadly bomb attacks that had taken place hours after he had been sworn in, President Jonathan said that although many had tried not to believe it, it had become obvious that “we have terrorists among us”. Yet, those troubles had not begun on 29 May and had been a source of concern since they had started in the Niger Delta and moved north. The Government had been able to control the situation through negotiations and close monitoring, he noted.
The President said he believed the bombing was not related to the elections that had put him in office, assuring the international community that the incident would be addressed. “We have to manage it and slowly root it out.” Nigeria was committed to working with all countries in the global fight against terrorism. “This has nothing to do with Muslims versus Christians,” he stressed, adding that the “ugliness” of terrorism affected all nations.
Emphasizing also that it was a mistake to characterize Nigeria as having an “all-Muslim” north and an “all-Christian” south, the President said that while some recent attacks had emanated from an Islamic sect, it had not targeted Christians exclusively, but all those who did not agree with its views.
Asked how he felt about negotiating with “terrorists”, the President said no Government wished to kill its citizens, “even those who are carrying weapons against the State”. There was always the route of negotiations, he said, pointing out that negotiations and a subsequent amnesty programme had proved successful in the Niger Delta. “The carrot-and-stick approach is always there as an option,” President Jonathan said in conclusion.
* *** *For information media • not an official record