UNAIDS - 25 January 2012
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe travelled to the West
African nation of Gabon on 23 January to lend his support to an
innovative campaign launched by the Sylvia Bongo Ondimba
Foundation--a charitable organization run by Gabon's First Lady.
The campaign, called "CAN without AIDS," uses sports as a
platform to reach millions of people with messages on HIV
prevention across Africa, particularly youth. Timed with the 2012
Coupe d'Afrique des Nations (or "CAN")--a football championship
co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea--the campaign is
supported by Cameroonian football star Samuel Eto'o and Didier
Ovono, captain of Gabon's national football team.
In a meeting at the First Lady's offices in Libreville, the
capital city of Gabon, Mr Sidibe thanked Madam Sylvia Bongo
Ondimba for integrating the UNAIDS vision of "three zeroes"--Zero
new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related
deaths--in the "CAN without AIDS" campaign. He encouraged the
First Lady to continue her efforts to strengthen the HIV response
in Gabon and across the continent.
"I am very happy to be associated with the President and the
First Lady of Gabon in this important campaign," said Mr Sidibe.
"UNAIDS will continue to work with the First Lady's Foundation
beyond the CAN 2012 tournament, and we want young people to
respond to our call for a final score of zero," he added.
After the football tournament ends in mid-February, "CAN without
AIDS" will focus on the national HIV response in Gabon, with each
quarter of the year dedicated to one of the "three zeroes."
UNAIDS and the First Lady's Foundation signed an agreement to
work together on this country-focused campaign.
Meeting with Gabon's Head of State
In a separate meeting with President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon
on 23 January, Mr Sidibe congratulated the Head of State for his
personal engagement in the HIV response--nationally and globally.
The UNAIDS Executive Director thanked the President for his
participation in the June 2011 UN General Assembly High Level
Meeting on AIDS, and for his leadership in the adoption of an
historic Security Council resolution on AIDS.
During their discussion, Mr Sidibe and President Ali Bongo
Ondimba expressed concern over Africa's dependence on external
financing for the HIV response. "The level of development aid is
a reflection of our own commitment," noted President Ondimba. "I
am ready to open the debate on AIDS dependency with colleagues to
find local solutions," he added.
An estimated two-thirds of AIDS expenditures in Africa come from
external sources. Between 2009 and 2010, international
investments for AIDS dropped by 13%.
AIDS advocacy with football star Samuel Eto'o
Later in the day, UNAIDS Executive Director held a joint press
conference with Samuel Eto'o at the Agondje stadium in
Libreville. Mr Sidibe emphasized that an international football
player like Eto'o can carry a powerful message to young people in
Africa and beyond--including Eastern Europe, where the HIV
epidemic is growing at a rapid rate.
During the press briefing, Mr Eto'o underscored the need to
openly discuss HIV-related issues and to find solutions. "I hope
HIV will stop being taboo in our communities," he said.
The visit to Gabon culminated with a symbolic gesture: the
release of 50 000 red and white balloons above the stadium in the
presence of the First Lady, Samuel Eto'o, the UNAIDS Executive
Director, the Chairperson of the African Football Confederation,
Issa Hayatou, and the Director-General of the First Lady's
Foundation, Guillaume Adam.
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CAN without AIDS - http://www.cansanssida.com/english/