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US mayors experience the impact of HIV/AIDS
Friday 18 March 2005
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SWAZILAND: US mayors experience the impact of HIV/AIDS

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Mayor Nokuthuko Mthetfwa of Ezulwini, Swaziland, right, at presentation for US mayors

MBABANE, 5 September (PLUSNEWS) - A delegation from the US Conference of Mayors met with their Swazi counterparts this week to discuss mutually beneficial ways to maintain contact and tackle the country's daunting HIV/AIDS dilemma.

"The towns of Swaziland can certainly benefit from American assistance, but this country offers opportunities for our doctors, students and technical people to be involved in important humanitarian programmes," Meyera Oberndorf, mayor of Virginia Beach, Virginia, told IRIN.

Nokuthoko Mthetfwa, Chairman of the Ezulwini town board, welcomed the team of three visiting US mayors to the capital, Mbabane, in her capacity as president of the Alliance of Mayors Initiative to Combat AIDS at the Local Level (AMICALL-Swaziland). Her organisation will enable the group to gain valuable first-hand experience of the scope of the epidemic.

"They had heard that nearly 40 percent of the adult population is HIV positive, but they wanted to see the human reality underlying the statistics. A visit to an orphanage entirely populated by children who have lost both parents to AIDS was their most dramatic encounter," Mthetfwa told IRIN.

"Taking an AIDS orphan in my arms really put a human face on the crisis," said Oberndorf.

The US mayors spent time in Manzini, Swaziland's most populous urban area, and saw the mushrooming informal settlements where HIV/AIDS is particularly acute. In slums like KaKhoza, poverty and a ballooning, highly transient population from the rural areas who come to the city in the hope of finding employment, contribute to the spread of HIV.

Irma Anderson, mayor of Richmond, California, said: "We have doctors who would like to do work in AIDS mitigation in Africa. We have teachers and students who are looking for places to serve. Swaziland offers ways for them to accomplish these goals."

The US mayors emphasised that they were laying the groundwork for long-term relationships that will tap into the resources both countries have to offer.

Oberndorf noted: "In 15 hours you can travel from the US to Swaziland. Health problems are global nowadays. The US Conference of Mayors is dedicated to forging links with Africa. For 30 years, we have been involved in establishing democracy on the continent."

All mayors of American municipalities with populations over 30,000 belong to the Conference, which has close to 1,200 members. Many on the current tour are in charge of cities with business links to Africa. Other teams of mayors are also visiting Uganda, South Africa and Namibia.

"The Ford Motor Company is headquartered in my city, and it has made a large financial commitment to combating AIDS in Africa," said Michael Guido, mayor of Dearborn, Michigan. Ford has a Southern Africa manufacturing and distribution system for its cars and trucks. Like other industries in the region, the workforce also has its share of HIV-positive people.

The mayors' visit had the blessing of the Swaziland and American governments, but was initiated at the local level.

"AIDS is a problem that has hit towns hard. American cities have had to cope, and in Africa the disease has cut tax revenue when tax payers die, while diverting resources from developmental projects to health care, social services like orphanages, and even the expansion of municipal cemeteries," said Mthetfwa.

"For too long the responsibility of dealing with AIDS was left to health professionals. We are saying solutions must come from the communities. Everyone has to respond, on an individual level and on a family, local and national level. The mayors' visit shows a response on an international level," said Rudolph Maziya, national director of AMICAALL Swaziland.

"From the Bush Administration's trade and AIDS initiatives for Africa, to the Conference of Mayors, the US is showing its commitment to Africa," US Ambassador to Swaziland James McGee told IRIN.


Recent SWAZILAND Reports
Elderly bear burden of orphan crisis,  17/Mar/05
Humanitarian crisis worsening, warn relief agencies,  28/Feb/05
Targeting HIV/AIDS in the workplace,  17/Feb/05
HIV-positive women's group creates agricultural cooperative,  14/Feb/05
Top officials of trade unions publicly tested for HIV,  4/Feb/05
AIDS Media Center
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
VIH Internet
Sida Info Services

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