KK blames governments over Aids
Speaking from Lusaka, Dr Kenneth Kaunda blamed the continued magnitude of HIV transmission and early deaths of people living with the virus to what he called “continued reluctance of African leaders to take the bull by the horns.”
“Most of our leaders are still afraid or shy to talk about HIV and AIDS. They are probably discouraged and yet they don’t want to consult others on what to do,” Kaunda said.
He was addressing over 50 journalists from eleven African countries and two others at Cresta Golfview Hotel at the closure of a five-day media training dubbed “Editorial Leadership in HIV/AIDS Reporting: Changing Hearts, Minds and Behaviors.”
“Our leaders lack determination and this is causing devastating consequences on our societies,” said the 82-year old former president, who is currently an Aids activist.
He however said that the struggle against the pandemic is not exclusive to governments, adding that all people ought to take the lead. “The aim should be one; to strive to serve God’s people with renewed vigor and determination.”
In the past, Kaunda, who quit power in 1991, confessed that his son, Masuzyo Kaunda, died of the disease.
Former Zambian Health minister and medical professor, Nkandu Luo, said that Rwanda is the only African country that she knows that had made a review on alcohol, adding that irresponsible drunkardness impairs the immunity of people living with HIV/Aids.
“Both alcohol and ARVs are toxic and therefore a combination of the two affects the brain, and besides, alcohol builds resistance to drugs,” she said, adding that HIV positive drunkards are fond of defaulting on ARVs. “They always forget to take drugs at prescribed hours, which makes the drugs ineffective and therefore the need to go to Line Two or Line Three (of ARVs) which are more expensive.”
Nineteen-year old HIV positive girl, Memory Phiri, who contracted the virus through rape at 13, called on journalists to rekindle the message of “Abstinence” for youths.
“I am concerned that these days the message given to unmarried youth is to use condoms, instead of encouraging them to abstain. Abstinence is safer than any other preventive measure,” Phiri, who was full of life, said, adding that she aspires to become a medical doctor in future.
The unprecedented training organised under the auspices of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an HIV prevention, care and treatment programme operating in fifteen developing countries across the world, was attended by editors and senior journalists from PEPFAR focus countries namely; Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana (South America), Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia and Rwanda. Others drew from South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Vietnam (South-East Asia).
Only Nigeria and Haiti (South America) sent no representatives to the training.
In her concluding remarks, the US Ambassador to Zambia, Carmen Martinez, told journalists to use their influence to put the issue of HIV/Aids at the fore.
“As journalists you have the power to inform, educate, stimulate, inspire, and in this case, to save lives,” she said, adding: “The US government considers you as key partners in the fight against the HIV pandemic.”
US President George Bush injected $15 billion into PEPFAR. The programme’s initial five-year phase runs out in 2008, and the US officials have assured that the programme will not come to a halt even after Bush administration.
“The US government will not abandon people faced with the pandemic; we will not run away from them,” Marta Levitt-Dayal, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Team Leader for HIV/AIDS in Zambia, said last week.
Similar remarks were made by the Deputy US Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Jimmy Kolker, during a video press conference with the trainees. ‘ New Times.