What President Banda said at AIDS convention

SPEECH BY
HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT
OF THE REPUBLIC OF ZAMBIA
MR. RUPIAH BWEZANI BANDA

Zambia HIV Prevention Convention

“Theme: Securing Zambia’s Future”

THE MINISTER OF HEALTH MR. KAPEMBWA SIMBAO;
CABINET MINISTERS PRESENT;
THE UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL’S SPECIAL ENVOY ON HIV AND AIDS IN AFRICAYOUR ROYAL
HIGHNESSES PRESENT;
THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL AIDS COUNCIL
HEADS OF MISSIONS AND AGENCIES ACCREDITED TO ZAMBIA;
DISTINGUISHED INVITED GUESTS;
MEMBERS OF THE PRESS;
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE AND THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF ZAMBIA, I WOULD LIKE TO WELCOME YOU ALL TO THIS HISTORIC AND MOMENTOUS OCCASION. THIS CONVENTION HAS COME AT AN OPPORTUNE TIME WHEN GOVERNMENT HAS COMMENCED PREPARATIONS OF THE SIXTH NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN, ITS NEXT FIVE YEARS NATIONAL AIDS STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK AND PRESENTATION OF THE 2010 NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT BUDGET.
THE THEME OF THIS CONVENTION, WHICH IS “SECURING ZAMBIA’S FUTURE”, UNDERSCORES THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE HIV AND AIDS PANDEMIC IN THIS COUNTRY. THE PANDEMIC IS ROBBING US OF THE MUCH NEEDED HUMAN CAPITAL BY DECIMATING EDUCATED AND PRODUCTIVE WOMEN AND MEN IN THEIR PRIME, MANY OF WHOM HAVE BEEN TRAINED AT GREAT COST TO THE TREASURY.  THIS POSES A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE PRESENT AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS COUNTRY. FOR THIS REASON, MY GOVERNMENT WILL DO ALL IT TAKES TO PROVIDE AN ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH ZAMBIANS WILL ENJOY A HEALTHY AND PRODUCTIVE LIFE.
LADIES AND GENTLMEN
YOU ALL WILL RECALL MY SPEECH AT THE 2008 CANDLE LIGHT MEMORIAL SERVICE AT THE CATHEDRAL OF THE CHILD JESUS ON THE EVE OF THE 2008 WORLD AIDS DAY COMMEMORATION IN WHICH I CHALLENGED ALL PARTNERS IN THE COUNTRY TO PRIORITIZE HIV PREVENTION AS THE MAIN WAY TO HELP ZAMBIA ACHIEVE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOAL NUMBER SIX – REVERSING AND HALTING THE SPREAD OF HIV.
I AM AWARE THAT THE CABINET COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS ON AIDS HAS CONTINUED TO WORK TIRELESSLY TO REFOCUS THE NATIONAL AIDS RESPONSE USING DIFFERENT INITIATIVES AND APPROACHES.
ALTHOUGH THE HIV AND AIDS PANDEMIC IS A GLOBAL PROBLEM, SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA BEARS THE GREATEST BURDEN AND ZAMBIA IS ONE OF THE COUNTRIES THAT ARE AT THE EPICENTRE OF THIS PANDEMIC. AS A RESULT, HIV AND AIDS CONTINUE TO OVERWHELM THE CAPACITIES OF THE NATIONAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS. BUT THE IMPACT OF AIDS HAS GONE FAR BEYOND THE HOUSEHOLD AND COMMUNITY LEVEL. ALL AREAS OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR AND THE ECONOMY HAVE BEEN WEAKENED, AND IT REMAINS A MAJOR CONSTRAINT TO OUR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT.
MADAM CHAIRPERSON, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
ZAMBIA’S HIV/AIDS JOURNEY HAS BEEN A LONG AND DIFFICULT ONE SINCE THE FIRST CASE WAS DISCOVERED IN 1984. WE HAVE, HOWEVER, LEARNT FROM EXPERIENCE THAT WHEN WE PUT OUR MINDS TO ONE RESPONSE, WE CAN DEFEAT ANY CHALLENGE FACING US AS A COUNTRY. AS A GOVERNMENT, WE HAVE PUT IN PLACE A STRONG MULTI-SECTORAL RESPONSE TO FIGHT THE HIV/AIDS PANDEMIC.
THE FACT THAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED SOME MEASURE OF SUCCESS IN REVERSING THE SPREAD OF HIV AND IN MITIGATING ITS ADVERSE IMPACT IS A TESTAMENT TO THE ACHIEVEMENTS THAT WE ARE PROUD OF. BUT WE CAN NOT AFFORD TO BE COMPLACENT.
MADAM CHAIRPERSON,
THE ZAMBIAN GOVERNMENT IS SUCCEEDING IN GETTING MEDICINES TO MORE HIV POSITIVE PEOPLE. THIS HAS PROLONGED THE LIVES OF PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS AND IMPROVED THEIR WELLBEING. THE FREE PREVENTION FROM MOTHER TO CHILD TREATMENT (PMTCT) SERVICES SPREAD ACROSS THE COUNTRY HAVE ALSO REDUCED NEW INFECTIONS FROM MOTHERS TO NEW BORN BABIES AND REDUCED THE MORTALITY OF BOTH CHILDREN AND THEIR MOTHERS.
IN ADDITION, THE GOVERNMENT’S FREE CONDOM DISTRIBUTION PROGRAMME IS HELPING SEXUALLY-ACTIVE ZAMBIANS TO MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS ABOUT PROTECTING THEMSELVES FROM HIV INFECTION.
I AM INFORMED THAT THERE IS SOME EVIDENCE OF WIDESPREAD POSITIVE BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE AS A RESULT OF THE NATIONAL AIDS RESPONSE, WHICH IS BEING COORDINATED THROUGH THE NATIONAL HIV/AIDS/TB/STI COUNCIL WITH THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH AND THE CIVIL SOCIETY AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR. SIMILARLY, HIV INFECTION FROM BLOOD PRODUCTS HAS REDUCED BECAUSE OF THE FREE AND CENTRALIZED NATIONAL BLOOD SAFETY PROGRAMME THROUGH THE ZAMBIA BLOOD TRANSFUSION SERVICES.
THE LATEST REPORTS ON THE GLOBAL AIDS EPIDEMIC HAVE RECORDED A DRAMATIC DROP IN THE NUMBER OF NEW HIV INFECTIONS AMONG ZAMBIAN ADULTS FROM 78,000 IN 2001 TO 56,000 IN 2007. THE PERCENTAGE OF HIV POSITIVE ADULTS HAS ALSO DROPPED SLIGHTLY BY 0.2%. THIS IS ALL GOOD NEWS BUT, SADLY, FROM THE 2009 ZAMBIA HIV PREVENTION RESPONSE AND MODES OF TRANSMISSION ANALYSIS REPORT, WE LEARN THAT ZAMBIA IS FACED WITH SOME NEW AND TOUGH CHALLENGES TO REDUCE THE RATE OF NEW INFECTIONS IN SOME PARTS OF THE COUNTRY.
THE KEY FACTORS DRIVING THE PANDEMIC REQUIRE THAT WE ALL PUT OUR HEADS TOGETHER TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY IRRESPECTIVE OF OUR NORMS, VALUES AND SOCIAL BACKGROUNDS. THIS CONVENTION HAS PROVIDED OPPORTUNITIES FOR DELIBERATIONS WHICH WILL PRODUCE RECOMMENDATIONS WITH CONCRETE ACTIONS FOR HIGH POLICY REDIRECTION AND INVESTMENT.
BASED ON OUR LATEST UNDERSTANDING OF THE PANDEMIC, ZAMBIA IS FACED WITH CHALLENGES THAT REQUIRE FRANKNESS AND HONESTY AMONGST OURSELVES.  IT CALLS FOR A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY WITHIN OUR COMMUNITIES TO FACE UP TO THESE CHALLENGES. WE NEED TO CHANGE BOTH OUR ATTITUDES AND OUR BEHAVIOURS IN SEVERAL KEY WAYS IF WE ARE TO SEE A MEANINGFUL DECLINE IN THE RATE OF NEW INFECTIONS.
MADAM CHAIRPERSON, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
I AM INFORMED THAT MULTIPLE AND CONCURRENT SEXUAL PARTNERSHIPS, ESPECIALLY AMONG STABLE AND LONG STANDING RELATIONSHIPS, ARE A LEADING SOURCE OF NEW INFECTIONS IN THE COUNTRY. WITHIN THESE RELATIONSHIPS, CONSISTENT AND CORRECT CONDOM USE REMAINS DISMALLY LOW DESPITE CONDOMS BEING READILY AVAILABLE AND IN MOST CASES FREE OF CHARGE.   IF WE WANT TO STOP HIV, WE HAVE TO STOP THIS BEHAVIOUR.
AS A CHRISTIAN NATION, WE ALSO NEED TO REINFORCE THE FAMILY VALUES OF FAITHFULNESS AMONG PARTNERS. THIS CALLS FOR THE PROMOTION OF ABSTINENCE AS A MEANS OF PREVENTING HIV TRANSMISSION AMONG UNMARRIED INDIVIDUALS. THE FAITH-BASED COMMUNITY HAS AN IMPORTANT LEADERSHIP ROLE TO PLAY IN THIS REGARD, AND WE OPEN THE DOOR TO FRANK AND OPEN DIALOGUE WITH THEM AROUND THESE MATTERS.
MADAM CHAIRPERSON, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
AS A PRACTICAL MEASURE, CONDOM USE SHOULD BE PROMOTED ALONSIDE THE PROMOTION OF ABSTINENCE. CONDOMS ARE IMPORTANT FOR GENERAL SEXUAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND THE PREVENTION OF HIV AND OTHER SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS. IN PARTICULAR, THOSE WHO ARE MOST AT RISK OF CONTRACTING HIV, SUCH AS THE YOUTH, PEOPLE WHO HAVE CASUAL SEX, MOBILE POPULATIONS, AND SEX WORKERS, SHOULD USE CONDOMS AS A PREVENTIVE METHOD.

BUT WE ALSO NEED TO DEEPEN OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE PANDEMIC AND MORE SPECIFICALLY THE MODE OF TRANSMISSION AMONG THE MARGINALIZED POPULATIONS SUCH AS COMMERCIAL SEX WORKERS, AND HOW THEY IMPACT ON NATIONAL HIV TRANSMISSION.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
MALE CIRCUMCISION, WHICH IS A RELATIVELY RECENT BUT IMPORTANT ADDITION TO THE HIV PREVENTION ARSENAL, SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED TO REDUCE NEW HIV INFECTIONS. IT SHOULD, HOWEVER, BE NOTED THAT CIRCUMCISION IS ONLY EFFECTIVE WHEN USED WITH OTHER PREVENTIVE MEASURES.
MALE CIRCUMCISION ON ITS OWN DOES NOT PROTECT FROM HIV INFECTION BUT IT DOES PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN REDUCING HIV TRANSMISSION. WE SHOULD, THEREFORE, ENCOURAGE OUR YOUNG MEN TO BECOME CIRCUMCISED, NO MATTER THEIR TRIBE, AND MOTIVATE PARENTS WOMEN TO HAVE THEIR INFANTS CIRCUMCISED.
ANOTHER CHALLENGE IS THAT OF OUR MOBILE PEOPLE. GIVEN OUR LONG-STANDING TRADITION OF MOBILITY FOR ECONOMIC AND OTHER SOCIAL REASONS WHICH INCREASES OUR PEOPLE’S VULNERABILITY TO HIV TRANSMISSION, WE NEED TO BUILD STRONG FAMILIES, AND SUPPORT FAMILIES WHO ARE SEPARATED FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME.
WE ALSO NEED TO COME UP WITH WORKPLACE POLICIES THAT ALLOW FAMILIES TO REUNITE, FOR HUSBANDS AND WIVES TO FIND INTIMACY AND COMFORT IN EACH OTHER, DESPITE THE DISTANCE. WE SHOULD ALSO, AS A COUNTRY, RECOMMIT OURSELVES TO ENDING THE TRANSMISSION OF HIV FROM MOTHER TO CHILD.
MADAM CHAIRPERSON, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
ALCOHOL ABUSE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ARE EQUALLY OF GREAT CONCERN TO MY GOVERNMENT. I DIRECT THE RELEVANT ARMS OF GOVERNMENT TO COME UP WITH WAYS OF CURBING THESE TWO VICES BECAUSE THEY CONTRIBUTE TO THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS.   I AM PARTICULARLY CONCERNED WITH THE HIGH NUMBER OF UNDER-AGE CHILDREN BEING ALLOWED IN BARS AND NIGHT CLUBS.  WE NEED TO STOP THIS.  ALCOHOL ABUSE AMONG THE YOUNG IS BECOMING WORRISOME TO MY GOVERNMENT.
FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES,
IF WE DO NOT INNOVATIVELY ADDRESS THESE CHALLENGES, WE RISK A FURTHER SPREAD OF THE HIV INFECTION WITH THE POTENTIAL TO LOSE ALL THE GAINS MADE IN THE NATIONAL HIV AND AIDS RESPONSE SO FAR.
I AM VERY GLAD THAT THE NATIONAL HIV/AIDS/TB/STI COUNCIL, THROUGH THE POLICY GUIDANCE OF THE CABINET COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS ON HIV AND AIDS, HAS PUT TOGETHER THESE THREE DAYS OF TECHNICAL AND POLICY INTERACTION AMONG DIFFERENT PARTNERS TO CONTEXTUALISE THE SOLUTIONS TO THE ZAMBIAN SITUATION.
CHAIRPERSON, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
ON BEHALF OF MY GOVERNMENT AND THE PEOPLE OF ZAMBIA, I WISH TO OFFICIALLY OPEN THIS HIGH LEVEL POLICY DIALOGUE.
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THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION.

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