World AIDS Day Round Up

MENA RST 2014 World AIDS Day celebration was hosted for the 2nd year by the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States and was jointly organized this year with the Arab Scout Organization in an effort to mobilize youth in the regional response. This year WAD was held under the slogan “Close the Gap - Leave No One Behind”. With particular emphasis on the following key messages:

Close the Leadership Gap – Empower Women and Youth

Close the Funding Gap – Shared Responsibility and Regional Solidarity

Close the Testing and Treatment Gap

The ceremony was held under the auspices of H.E. Dr Nabil Al Araby, General Secretary of the League of Arab States, and inaugurated by H.E. Dr Adel Al Adawy, Minister of Health and Population in Egypt, Mr Tim Martineau, Chief of Staff, UNAIDS, Dr Yamina Chakkar, Director, Regional Support Team MENA, Dr Atif Abdelmageed, Secretary General of Arab Scout Organization and Regional Director, World Scout Bureau, Arab Region and Dr Laila Negm, Director, Health and Humanitarian Aid Department, the League of Arab States.

the meeting has witnessed high level of attendance varying from government officials including NAP Manager, UN Regional Directors, UN Cosponsors, Civil Society, PLHIV, representatives of Key Populations, public figures, writers, academia, international organizations and donors. The event also attracted huge media coverage with presence of prominent TV channels and news agencies in Egypt as well as regional media.

The WAD was inaugurated by the speech of Dr Yamina Chakkar, Director, MENA RST who thanked partners and particularly the League of Arab States for the continued and close partnership as well as the Arab Scout Organization for their contribution to the event. She then referred to the regional gap report which indicates clearly that the rate of new HIV infections among key affected groups is still on the rise in contrast to the global situation where the rate is either stabilizing or declining. She pointed out the golden opportunity present in the Arab AIDS Strategy to achieve regional and global targets including the fast-track targets of 90, 90,90 as well as increasing resources and local efforts to get to these targets by 2020 and eventually ending AIDS by 2030. “I want to reemphasize the words of UNAIDS Executive Director that MENA region can be the first region to end the AIDS epidemic if we all scale up our efforts and work together”.

Mr. Tim Martineau, UNAIDS Chief of Staff’s participation in the event representing UNAIDS Executive Director, emphasized the support and commitment from UNAIDS HQ to the region as well as to our key partners present on that day. in his speech, Mr. Martineau underlined that the Global AIDS response and the MENA AIDS response are but one in being at the most important moment in their history. “This is a moment of truth that we have to decide, shall we become complacent and keep the coverage of treatment and other services at the same level as 2013 or to be encouraged by our past achievements, new commitments and leadership and seeing the end at the reachable horizon make the final push and use the crucial six years ahead of us to ensure that after 2030 HIV epidemic is a memory of the past, a successful one.”

The message of Michel was then displayed to the audience and it made a very strong impact with its clarity, simplicity and strong advocacy to redouble efforts, to fast-track actions and close the gap between people who have access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and people who are being left behind Dr Atif AbdelMageed, the Secretary General of Arab Scout Organization showed his enthusiasm to the new partnership with the League of Arab States and UNAIDS in the fight against AIDS and highlighted the important and catalytic role of youth in this phase of the response indicating that the Scouts in particular have exceptional opportunity to influence the society and change the community for a better world for those affected by HIV.

Dr Laila Negm, Director, Department of Health and Humanitarian Aid presented the speech of Dr Nabil Al Araby emphasizing on the great regional opportunity for turning the tide of the HIV epidemic by operationalizing the Arab AIDS Strategy noting that the first step in the road was taken in Algeria with regional women leaders that generated a strong Call for Action which the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States is planning to present at the next meeting of the Council of Arab Ministers of Health in early 2015.. “This excellent first step will be continued with two upcoming events to call on the commitment of the Arab media and religious leaders. Here , I would like to congratulate the leadership efforts of UNAIDS towards all these achievements along with the international organizations and concerned civil society organizations”. Said Dr Negm.

The event was attended by the Regional Super star and actress “Yosra”, who has previously, served as UNDP Regional Goodwill Ambassador for four years and has been a strong advocate for human rights in many regional and international events. “Yosra” showed by her presence at the WAD celebration her commitment to support the regional partners in fighting the stigma and discrimination against PLHIV and those affected by the epidemic and to ensure all marginalized people can get access to their basic rights to live a healthy and dignified life. In an excellent advocacy message for HIV testing she declared: “I test for HIV every year and would like everybody to do the same. With regular and adhered to treatment, we can look upon HIV and AIDS not as a deadly disease but as a chronic illness like diabetes and high blood pressure”.

The event also witnessed the signing of an MOU between the General Secretariat of League of Arab States and the Regional/Arab Network Against AIDS (RANAA). This MOU is considered a crucial and excellent step forward towards closing the partnership gap between the civil society and governments in the region within the operationalization of the Arab AIDS Strategy. “The signing of the MOU with the League of the Arab States gives us the civil society a much needed opportunity to raise our voices to our governments to call for scaled up services for care and treatment to all those marginalized and left behind and help us win our war against stigma and discrimination” said Mr Elie Aaraj, the President RANAA.

The Regional Scout Organization handed during the celebration shields of recognition to the UNAIDS Executive Director, which was delivered to Mr. Tim Martineau on his behalf, the General Secretary of League of Arab States and the Minister of Health and Population of Egypt. The gesture was made in appreciation of the diligent efforts of UNAIDS and the League in moving forward the HIV response and to call for the commitment of the Minister of Health as well as to pledge the commitment of its youth to support and collaborate with them in fighting AIDS and bringing it to an end by 2030.

The highlight of the event was the presentation of the scout’s youth which included a video on Stigma and discrimination as well as live performance depicting the hope youth can give to those living with HIV and to remove misconceptions around the disease and change the community’s negative attitude towards those at risk. The show ended with the scouts’ pledge of commitment to all partners in the room in a strong and unanimous voice. “To end AIDS by 2030 in the region, we commit to help, support, and collaborate with you to fight it till the end”.