Treatment Can Stop HIV/AIDS in its Tracks

Will we end AIDS? Now that we know that treatment can stop the disease, we would be literally getting away with murder if we don't.
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On Tuesday, I had the privilege of speaking at the United Nations' Women Global Coalition on HIV/AIDS and I wanted to share this experience with you. I've included the video of my speech (at the bottom of this post) and am sharing my complete transcript below. Today, I ask that you take a pledge to fight AIDS. Join me and Keep a Child Alive by taking the pledge.

The women of the world know what to do. And they do it. They would do more if they had equal rights and weren't discriminated against. That is what we need to fix more than anything in our world. With my organization, Keep a Child Alive, we put the trust directly in the people on the ground, who are extremely capable to run these programs but lack the funding, medicines and health care professionals. If we show to the next generation of men and women affected by the AIDS pandemic that we care by providing the necessary resources of universal treatment that doesn't end, doctors and nurses, food programs, micro-loan opportunities -- this will empower them to live their dreams. And stop the pandemic in its tracks.

We believe that, with AIDS treatment, anything is possible. We watch people become reborn with treatment. And I've seen it myself! At our clinic in Uganda, ALIVE Medical Services, a father came in one day, his name is Bashir, unable to walk and on his deathbed. He had seven children at home. Within one month of ARV therapy and food parcels from our ALIVE clinic -- Bashir looked like a new man and over the past year, his health has restored to a level where he is actually a father again. With the help of a small loan from us, he opened a boda-boda spare parts shop not far from the main road to Jinja. With funds from the shop, he is now able to send all seven of his school-aged children to school. That is empowerment. He can care for his family and contribute to his community because he is healthy. Without effective treatment, his seven girl children would have lost their father and their outcome would have been painful at best.

Even in Rwanda, at our Centreville clinic in Kigali -- women receive AIDS treatment and surrounding care but they have started the Ineza Cooperative as a source of personal empowerment and economic development. Through education programs in design, sewing, management, computer skills and marketing, these patients learn valuable skills to help support themselves. In addition, English classes are taught to enable the women to better communicate with customers and tourists that come to Ineza to purchase goods. Every product that the Ineza women create is one-of-a-kind, and represents the strength and renewal of female survivors of the 1994 genocide. That is empowerment. They find renewed courage and support to heal their once fragmented lives.

I also think we should empower the caretakers themselves to continue the incredible life-changing work they have fearlessly decided to devote their lives to. My dear Mum Carol Dyanti, who founded and runs Ikageng Itireleng in Johannesburg holds a dear place in my heart. She is a mother to over 1,500 children living in child-headed households and provides the basic needs such as food, clothing, transportation, water, electricity, school fees, health care and transport. KCA empowers Mum Carol with funding to be able to provide these needs to relieve some of the pressure and despair faced by these young children, who are forced to take on adult roles. This is empowerment, enabling Mum Carol to continue her work to help raise these children all affected by AIDS.

Empowering women and men affected by the AIDS pandemic will come from OUR investment in them. We need to provide the treatment for life, we need to provide it to everyone, and give them opportunity. We need to believe in them and not give up.

In my capacity as Co-founder and Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive I call on all heads of state, governments and leaders in the Global North and the Global South to decide:

Will we end AIDS? Will we end the immense pain and suffering that has been wrought upon millions of people in Africa and beyond by saving millions of lives or not? This discussion has been going on for years but now we have very real evidence that we can stop the disease. If we decide yes we can, we must do everything in our power to keep our promises with a very bold plan for universal access. We must commit to $22 billion by 2015 to prevent 12 million infections and save 7 million beautiful lives. Fifteen million on AIDS treatment by 2015! We CAN create the future.

Now that we know that treatment can stop the disease in its tracks we would be literally getting away with murder if we don't. So I call on the powers that be to:

  • Treat to prevent the spread of HIV toward an AIDS free generation.
  • Treat to prevent millions more children being orphaned.
  • Treat to prevent women and girls from having HIV-positive babies.
  • And finally treat to prevent children dying of AIDS. This must be our moral imperative.

I note that in the global plan being proposed here today that there are no real bold plans to treat and care for children already infected. Treat children or we will be faced with many problems from kids who were not nurtured and not loved as they grow. Only 18 percent of children in need are getting treatment. As Graca Michel says "Every child counts." Even if we decide after this UN meeting that we are going for VICTORY, we will still have to care for 16 million plus AIDS orphans. And that must be our focus too.

I call for us to empower people on the ground to win the battle. Empower people on the ground to win. That is the whole ethos at KCA.

I call for us to put women in charge of the issues that affect them. We are agents of change to a more compassionate world.

I call for us to educate men that women's bodies belong to them. Rape is not allowed, not even if you are married to your rapist.

I call for full gender equality.

I call for a new world that respects the rights of all people including sex workers.

I call for the end of homophobia. For God's sake, get over it. People are gay. I call for their human rights.

I call for an end to ideals that put profits and patents ahead of people.

I call for a plan to ensure that condoms are available everywhere. Male and female. I call for every effort possible to ensure microbicides are rolled out to protect women.

I call for an end to TB. By rolling out ARVs and screening for TB we can cut TB infections in half. I call for progressive language in the final declaration that comes out of the High Level meeting that caters to the world as it is today not medieval concepts we are far beyond. As advances in science and technology soar in our world so must advances in human rights.

We are all a mother's child. Treat her with respect.

I know we can send men to the moon so I know we can do this. I know we can bail out Wall Street in a week so I know we can do this. I know we can stop this disease in its tracks. WE CAN CREATE THE FUTURE.

Thank you.

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