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United Nations: Press Conference On Hiv/Aids Awards Ceremony


HIV/AIDS was a global pandemic that would destroy everybody unless there was a concerted, worldwide effort to fight it, Chijioke Wigwe, Minister at the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations, said at Headquarters today.

Moderating a press conference sponsored by the Nigerian Mission, he said it did not matter where the pandemic had originated or which race was most affected. The Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 had originated in South-East Asia but had eventually spread as far as Africa.

He said the press conference was being held ahead of Monday’s follow-up meeting to the General Assembly high-level session on HIV/AIDS. As part of the programme preceding that event, the Save Africa Concerts Foundation, a non-governmental organization promoting good health, would recognize individuals who had performed well in that regard. Among those to be presented with the “Beyond the Tears Humanitarian Award” were Babatunde Osotimehin, Chairman of Nigeria’s National Action Committee on AIDS; Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a frontline fighter against the pandemic in her native South Africa and the wider region; and New York City “subway hero” Wesley Autry, who risked his life in January to save the victim of a seizure from an onrushing train.

A panellist, Lee Bradley of R&B singing group The Intruders, said his group would be performing at tomorrow’s award ceremony, to be held at New York’s Apollo Theatre at 8 p.m.

Asked what advice he would give his peers in terms of “stemming the tide of HIV/AIDS”, Mr. Autry said it was doubtful that people would practise abstinence, which was the best way to avoid the disease, but they should at least practise safe sex, which provided a greater chance of survival.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Mr. Bradley added.

Asked about the “common myths” surrounding the origins of AIDS, New York City-based Shaka of Southern Africa Radio said it was no secret that AIDS was prevalent in Africa, but it affected everybody, regardless of its place of origin.

Mr. Autry added, “I don’t think the myth of where it started is important at this time; where do you want it to end? Should it destroy your country or should it destroy his?”

Responding to a question as to whether the focus on prevention distracted from public education and treatment strategies, Shaka said Ms. Madikizela-Mandela had been fighting to convince people about the importance of testing and being open about their status. It was also important to have a positive outlook. Testing and knowledge could prolong life because treatment was available. Professor Babatunde and many others were being honoured because they had saved lives by assuring people that an HIV-positive diagnosis was not a death warrant, he added.


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