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First ladies launch organisation to fight HIV/AIDS
Saturday 7 May 2005
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AFRICA: First ladies launch organisation to fight HIV/AIDS

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

KAMPALA, 9 June (PLUSNEWS) - The wives of eight African heads of state have formed a body to be known as the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), which, they said, would coordinate their efforts to combat the spread of the disease.

The organisation, which was launched in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on Tuesday, would also encourage women to play a more active role in the promotion of peace and security and in activities designed to attain sustainable food security on the continent, they said.

The first ladies, from Burundi, Comoros, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the queen of Swaziland, had accompanied their husbands to a summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a regional bloc aimed at promoting regional integration through trade and investment.

They said OAFLA would have annual round-table conferences and that its members would be torchbearers in efforts to improve the lives of African children, women and their communities in general, noting that women were most vulnerable to the ravages of AIDS and poverty.

The first ladies proposed the creation of a regional HIV/AIDS fund aimed at reducing dependency on donor funding for HIV/AIDS programmes.

"The first ladies are disturbed particularly that HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases are placing additional burdens on an already inadequate work force. Of the 42 million people affected by HIV/AIDS as of end of 2003, over 75 to 80 percent live in sub-Saharan Africa," they said in a joint statement.

"We have agreed that first ladies of the COMESA region should become the torchbearers in improving the lives of children, women and the communities and play an advocacy role towards implementation of policies enhancing the participation of women in business," they added.

The heads of state said in a joint communiqué at the end of their meeting that the COMESA summit had endorsed the proposed launch of their wives' organisation.

"These prominent women of the region pledged to urgently do all that is necessary to make anti-retroviral treatment availed to our needy population, including the introduction of policies and gender equality in access to treatment and care," the heads of state said.

COMESA is made up of 19 countries, namely: Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


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