H. E. Dr. Pascoal
Prime Minister of the Republic of Mozambique
The 26th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on HIV/AIDS
New York, 25 June, 2001
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a great honour for me to address this August assembly on
the national day of Mozambique, and on such an important issue. Today,
we are celebrating 26 years of our independence: 26 years of achievements
Allow me to congratulate you, Mr. President, for your leadership and for convening this special session, which will certainly provide us with an excellent opportunity to face up to our responsibility to future generations, and devise appropriate strategies and undertake decisive action to reverse the dramatic spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
We commend the Secretary General of the United Nations, for his unquestionable devotion and personal commitment to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Through a number of initiatives, he has ensured that the struggle against this deadly disease has become a priority on the United Nations agenda.
As we all acknowledge, humanity is facing a global emergency caused by HIV/AIDS. From all corners of the world we are confronted with disturbing figures about the incredible spread of the pandemic. Every single day, the infection and death toll grow. The epidemic claims more and more victims.
The statistics before us are quite alarming. In the year 2000, 36.1 million worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS, 75 per cent of whom in Sub-Saharan Africa. Southern Africa is so far the hardest hit region, comprising 7 of the top 10 most affected countries worst the world.
Our families are increasingly impoverished, our work force drastically reduced and our children increasingly orphaned. The basic social and economic fabric of communities and political stability of nations are threatened.
The magnitude of the problem posed by the HIV/AIDS pandemic has been duly recognized by world leaders who, in adopting the Millennium Declaration committed themselves to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, and help Africa build its capacity to tackle this tragic pandemic.
The convening of this special session is within the spirit that a global crisis like the HIV/AIDS pandemic must be addressed through global action. My Government believes that the Declaration we are about to adopt at this historic meeting should ensure a global commitment towards coordinating and strengthening of national, regional and international efforts to combat the epidemic in an integrated manner. We urge the international community to show the necessary political will to relieve the unprecedented sorrow and pain the pandemic is causing to humanity.
We know and widely acknowledge that poverty, stigma, lack of information and weak health infrastructures, hinder our quest in to Southern Africa succeed in fighting this epidemic. We have been less willing to acknowledge and to break our silence regarding the sexual behaviour and the gender inequalities that drive the epidemic.
AIDS is not like smallpox and polio. We may not be able to eliminate it simply with a one-time vaccination or course of shots for children, since new strains of HIV are constantly evolving. Unlike the communicable killer diseases we have encountered most often in the past, HIV is transmitted through the most intimate and private human relationships, through sexual violence and commercial sex; it proliferates mostly because of women's poverty and inequality.
In Mozambique, the overall rate of HIV infection among girls and young
women estimated at 15 per cent, is twice that of boys their age, not because
the girls are promiscuous, but because nearly 3 out of 5 are married by
age 18, 40 per cent of them to much older, sexually experienced men who
may expose their wives to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Similar patterns are common in other nations where HIV is rapidly spreading. Abstinence is not an option for these child brides. Those who try to negotiate condom use commonly face violence or rejection. And in heterosexual sex, girls and women are biologically more vulnerable to infection than boys or men.
To reverse the current situation, African leaders recently signed the
Abuja Declaration whereby committing themselves to further their leadership
in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In the SADC region, our collective actions are guided by the SADC HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework and Programme of Action for 2000-2004.
Within the framework of the Community of the Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), we are working towards the adoption of a multilateral instrument aimed at maximizing the results of existing national programmes, as well as bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The fight against HIV/AIDS is a priority area for Government action in Mozambique. In this endeavour, our Government has adopted a multi-sector approach, with the active involvement of all stakeholders. To coordinate the multi-sector action, a National Council to Combat HIV/AIDS was established, to also ensure that Mozambicans do have access to information and services.
The Government adopted a National Strategic Plan to Combat HIV/AIDS and Reduce Absolute Poverty. To achieve this goal, the strategic plan focuses on prevention and reduction of the impact, placing the human being at the centre stage of action, focusing on vulnerable groups such as women, orphaned children, and youth particularly girls. The family has an increased role in the improvement of the quality and coverage of care and treatment, as well as increased involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS.
The key platform of our national policy to combat HIV/AIDS is prevention.
Not only is this approach essential to reduce the current disturbing spread
of the epidemic, but it also provides a far cheaper solution as compared
with care and treatment. For prevention to be successful we must break
our silence and speak without taboos. We must strive to create a healthy
environment where the community can access accurate information about the pandemic. Only if the people are adequately informed, can we succeed in our fight against HIV/AIDS.
Accordingly, we must give special attention to vulnerable groups such as women and young people, girls in particular. We are striving to provide the necessary information and skills that will empower them to protect themselves. We must summon the courage to talk frankly and constructively about sexuality. We must recognize the pressures on our children to have sex that is neither safe nor loving. We must provide them with information, communication skills and, yes, condoms. In this process, we count on the interest and valuable support of community leaders, NGOs and religious leaders, to advance awareness campaigns and other educational undertakings, without disrupting moral values.
My Government cannot overemphasize the need for girls and women to be empowered in the fight against HIV/AIDS, given their vital role in our society. The struggle against HIVlAIDS will fail if women and their rights are not brought to the forefront. We are committed to taking measures as well as to ensure their access to education, employment, productive resources and information and communication skills.
Our children are another group requiring special attention. We shall not discriminate against orphans living with HIV/AII~S, nor those who became so as their relatives were claimed by the epidemic. We shall however strive to ensure that programmes are in place, supported primarily by conununities to ensure that orphan children are accorded an adequate environment for their smooth life.
Similarly, the manner in which people living with HIV/AIDS are treated is a matter of great concern for us. This is an issue that requires urgent action by the Governments through enacting and implementing appropriate legislation to protect this important segment of the population. I take this opportunity to announce that our parliament will be debating in the near future legislation aimed at protecting the rights of people living with HIV/AII~S. We do so because we believe it is the Government's responsibility to ensure the protection of every segment of the society without discrimination. By the same token, we also believe that the voice of those affected by the pandemic must be heard and taken into consideration.
For the success of our national efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, a genuine and strong partnership among all relevant stakeholders is fundamental. Fighting HIV/AIDS cannot bear positive results if exclusively conducted by the Government. It needs the active involvement of the civil society and the private sector that must play a crucial role in advocating, running and funding awareness campaigns and other initiatives in their communities. By building this strong partnership, we seek to maximize our joint efforts towards achieving the desired results.
Mozambique has felt the harshness of nature's cruelest actions during the last two years of severe floods that jeopardized our development efforts. Our country stands right at the bottom of the global wealth pyramid and yet Mozambicans are still willing, perhaps at times miraculously, to stand and walk through every trial.
Since HIV/AIDS is a global problem that calls for a global solution
and action, this special session must call on those countries that managed
to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as those in a position
to do so, to support countries in need.
Future generations depend upon our decisions. The success of our fight against HIV/AIDS depends largely on our political will and leadership both at national and international levels. We, the leaders gathered here, have the means and ways to deliver a bright and safe future for our children. We must not leave for tomorrow, the current unsustainable global patterns of poverty, debt, shameful and the immoral prices demanded for drugs and medicines to treat HIV/AIDS. We must strive to enhance scientific research towards providing affordable means of prevention, care and treatment, including a vaccine against HIV/AIDS, and better protective methods such as microbicides, that women can use with or without cooperation of their partners.
My delegation would like to commend the United Nations family for the
proposed creation of the Global Fund to Fight Against HIV/AIDS. Given the
immensity of the problem and the urgency of the task at hand, we would
to urge those in a position to do so to contribute to the fund expeditiously, while emphasizing on four critical points:
1. The additional nature of the resources allocated to the fund, to ensure that resources are not taken away from current development programmes for fighting poverty;
2. Access to such fund should not be subject to a cumbersome bureaucratic mechanism and should be aimed at enhancing national capacities of recipient countries;
3. The management of the fund should be transparent so that those in need can benefit effectively from it;
4. No commitment we declare today will achieve the desired results if adequate resources are not provided consistently and sustained over time.
We see the United Nations as the appropriate forum for advancing the agenda to combat HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS and the World Health Organization have proven that, provided with the necessary resources, they can assist our countries to meet the challenges before us. We remain committed to supporting all international initiatives aimed at defeating HIV/AIDS.
I Thank You!