UNICEF urges leaders to join fight against HIV/AIDS

SOMALIA: UNICEF urges leaders to join fight against HIV/AIDS

NAIROBI, 1 Dec 2003 (PLUSNEWS) - On the occasion of World AIDS Day, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has appealed to Somali leaders to join the fight against the disease and support the youth in tackling it, according to a press statement issued by the agency on Monday.

"Leaders must rise to this huge challenge and mobilise the youth, not to fight political battles, but to spearhead the fight for their own survival, and that of Somalia against AIDS," the statement quoted Jesper Morch, the UNICEF representative for Somalia, as saying.

Unlike many of the surrounding countries, in Somalia the prevalence of HIV/AIDS had remained relatively low, thereby providing a setting in which an effective, comprehensive and nationwide prevention programme - if put in place now - could achieve a reduction in the number of future HIV infections, said the statement.

Addressing a meeting of community leaders in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, Morch said: "AIDS is an issue on which there can be no disagreement. It knows no clan, no faction nor political allegiance."

World AIDS Day was also marked in other parts of Somalia. In the capital, Mogadishu, a ceremony was held at the Sahafi Hotel, which was attended by politicians, traditional elders, religious leaders, representatives of civil society and women's groups and the UN.

All the leaders present committed themselves to the fight against the pandemic, Dr Muhammad Mahmud Ali Fuje of the World Health Organisation told PlusNews.

"This is a breakthrough," he stressed. "It is the first time that religious leaders have come out in public to support the fight against the disease. This shows that Somalis are beginning to take this seriously."


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