Saturday, August 19, 2006

A man who speaks out

Last night, listening to the CBC's broadcast of "As it Happens", I heard an excerpt from a speech by Stephen Lewis, UN special envoy for HIV-AIDS Africa given at the international AIDS conference. Those of you more familiar with the fight against AIDS may have heard Mr. Lewis speak up in the past.

Lewis's remarks can be found here. Here's the part I found rather remarkable for its directness:

Number 13: And while I'm on the issue of treatment, I am bound to raise South Africa. South Africa is the unkindest cut of all. It is the only country in Africa, amongst all the countries I have traversed in the last five years, whose government is still obtuse, dilatory and negligent about rolling out treatment. It is the only country in Africa whose government continues to propound theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state. Between six and eight hundred people a day die of AIDS in South Africa. The government has a lot to atone for. I'm of the opinion that they can never achieve redemption.

There are those who will say I have no right, as a United Nations official, to say such things of a member state. I was appointed as Envoy on AIDS in Africa. I see my job as advocating for those who are living with the virus, those who are dying of the virus - all of those, in and out of civil society, who are fighting the good fight to achieve social justice. It is not my job to be silenced by a government when I know that what it is doing is wrong, immoral, indefensible.

I think this may be somewhat redacted, but I was sleepy while listening to the CBC. I seem to recall him likening the South African fight against AIDS as feeding lemon juice and peanuts to the infected, or something like that. How I wish someone of influence would speak to our President and Congress like that.


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