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close this bookVoices from Africa - Issue No. 10 - NGO Responses to HIV/AIDS (NGLS, 2001, 121 p.)
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View the documentThe United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS)

Introduction

AIDS has become a global crisis that threatens to reverse a generation of accomplishments in human development. And AIDS has fundamentally threatened human security. More than exclusively a health crisis, today AIDS is an emergency that affects many areas at once: health, development, the economy, education and humanitarian work.

Reducing HIV transmission, achieving good care standards, and helping to alleviate the impact of the epidemic have become possible and affordable.

But for every success story, there are far too many countries where urgently needed prevention and care have been blunted by denial, social stigma, insufficient resources, and a lack of political will. Pushing back the epidemic’s spread continues to require inspired leadership.

That leadership has come from government officials, religious leaders and international celebrities, as well as from the courageous battles of everyday people: the workers, students, activists and elders whose leadership is essential if change is to be achieved.

Yet leadership efforts will only succeed if sufficient resources are set aside to guarantee basic survival and future development. It is difficult for leaders to lead when economies are being devastated, if people are being forced to compromise their health and well-being to survive, or if government offices, education systems and organizations of civil society lose staff to the disease as quickly as they are trained. For leadership to work, the proper conditions must be created.

This presupposes collaboration at a new, more intense level, notably through mechanisms such as the International Partnership against AIDS in Africa. This coalition was born of the understanding that, in isolation, none of its constituencies - neither governments, nor civil society, nor the various national and international organizations working against AIDS in Africa - will succeed in turning the epidemic around. Instead, a coalition or partnership approach promises to magnify the contribution of all partners, while giving a clear leadership role to African governments.

Civil society in Africa plays a pivotal role in this partnership and in the broader response to AIDS. For years and in many countries on the continent, governments’ inability to tackle HIV - whether through lack of resources or commitment - has prompted NGOs to step in and take up the provision of HIV and AIDS services. This edition of Voices From Africa is replete with such examples. They range from the experiences of small local groups to the programmes and projects of international networks, made up of Africans from all regions who work on a daily basis with those infected or affected by HIV. They paint with their testimonies a poignant picture of the harsh battles they wage in everyday life - whether fighting ignorance and stigma, searching for scarce resources, or seeking support and commitment beyond their own. Without these and thousands of similar groups, the battle against AIDS would surely be a losing one.

NGLS has been publishing its Voices From Africa series for the best part of a decade now. Written entirely by African activists, practitioners and professionals, the series is designed to provide an opportunity for Africans to share their work, concerns, ideas and views with an international readership and help shape a more positive and balanced picture of African realities. This, the tenth in the series, focuses on the theme of HIV/AIDS in Africa and has been prepared to be made available for the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on AIDS in New York in June 2001. In providing an opportunity for African AIDS activists to share their experience, we very much hope that this edition of Voices From Africa, brought to life by close collaboration between the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and NGLS, will provide inspiration and hope, and contribute to strengthening the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and elsewhere.

Peter Piot
Executive Director
UNAIDS

Tony Hill
Coordinator
NGLS

May 2001