Leaders required to wipe out AIDS

The fight against the ever-worsening HIV epidemic needs champions and leaders from all walks of life — be it politics, business or youth - who will deliver results

LeaderThe theme for World AIDS Day for the years 2007 to 2008 is leadership. Since the beginning of the epidemic, it has been clear that significant advances in the fight against HIV have been achieved when there is strong and committed leadership. Leaders are distinguished by their action, innovation and vision, their personal example and engagement of others, and their perseverance in the face of obstacles and challenges. To get ahead of the virus, leadership must be demonstrated at every level – in families, in communities, in countries and internationally. Making leadership the theme of the next two World AIDS Days will potentially encourage leadership on AIDS within all levels and sectors of society. We hope it will inspire and foster champions from a range of different groups and networks, at local and international levels.

Leadership Theme for 2007-2008

The theme of leadership follows and builds on the 2006 theme of accountability. Despite the efforts to hold leaders accountable in 2006, progress in halting HIV is falling far short of targets. Over 25 million people have died from AIDS so far. HIV is spreading faster than in any previous year, with 4.3 million people infected in 2006 a lone. This is despite the number of promises by world leaders to provide services to curb the rates of infection as well as death rates. The commitments on AIDS made by the G8 nations now need to be delivered upon. In other high level meetings, governments of rich countries promised to increase the spending on development aid to 0.7 per cent of their annual budget. Only a handful of countries have done so. In the Abuja Declaration, African leaders committed to allocating 15 per cent of their budgets to health. This has happened in just one or two countries, with only one-third of African countries spending over 10 per cent. Now more than ever, leadership is needed not only by heads of states, but also by people all over the world.

HIV positive leaders

Deloris Dockrey, chair of the Board of Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, for instance, highlights the leadership role HIV positive people are taking. “In the US, it’s been the positive people who have led the challenges against HIV, created a lot of laws, and found a way to create change through their advocacy” she says. It’s the kind of leadership that is spreading throughout the world, she observes. She also notes that many people who are disadvantaged think they don’t have political clout, “but in many countries they are a voice and a vote” and positive people can take a leading role in campaigns. “Stigma can be addressed through education, and by standing up and saying ‘I am here and I am not going anywhere’.”

Business leaders

Business houses can also take leadership. “The response to HIV and AIDS requires bold leadership and innovation,” says Patricia Mugambi Ndegwa, Africa Director, East and Central Africa Office of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. “The business community has an unparalleled opportunity and responsibility to utilise their expertise, influence and acumen in the fight against one of the world’s deadliest pandemics.”

Youth leaders

Youth, too, have a role to play. “As young people, we need to shape the future with our own hands”, says Prateek Suman, member of Youth Coalition Steering Committee. “Although we are young, we have valuable knowledge and experience that we can bring to the table.”

Take the lead – Get involved

There are many ways you can get involved on World AIDS Day. Some ideas are listed here, but we encourage you to contact your local AIDS organisations to find out what’s happening in your area.

Take the Stop AIDS Leadership Pledge

To observe the 2007 and 2008 World AIDS Day theme of leadership, the World AIDS Campaign has launched the “Stop AIDS Leadership Pledge”. In collaboration with national, regional, international and constituent partners, the pledge asks people from all over the world to take the lead to stop AIDS. These pledges are being collected online, by mail and at events. They will be used to create exhibitions, banners and other “visibility” actions during major events in 2008. With a goal of at least 100,000 signatories, these pledges will serve as a persuasive tool for leveraging greater political leadership on universal access to AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support. They will act as a visual example for key national and international decision-makers to follow.

Please visit World AIDS Day web site to support the campaign.

Join local World AIDS day events

From Azerbaijan to Togo, events are planned all over the world on 1st December 2007.These events can take on many different forms – from a kite-flying event in Victoria, Canada, to a basketball tournament in Mali, information exhibitions in Nigeria to a candle light vigil in Arkansas. These events not only raise awareness about AIDS but also inspire others to get involved. You too can host, or join a World AIDS Day event in your area. Please visit the World AIDS Campaign website to read more about events.

Use promotional materials for World AIDS day

Also available on the World AIDS Campaign website, are the official World AIDS Day posters and flyers to download and use for your events as well as other means of promotion.

Molly Lepeska
Molly Lepeska is Communications Coordinator, World AIDS Campaign.
Tamara Richards is Consultant, World AIDS Campaign.