The Special Guest of Honour, our Special Guests, the Chairman of the occasion, Members of the high table, our Sponsors and our Distinguished students, on behalf of AFRYDEF, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to this great international event.
As we have gathered here this evening, we are joining other communities in over 150 countries of the world in the observance of this year’s International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, which is the world’s largest grassroots movement against HIV/AIDS. It is a worldwide campaign championed by the Global Health Council, an international network of organizations, government agencies, researchers and individuals committed in this collective fight against HIV/AIDS.
As an organization working to promote sustainable youth and rural development initiatives in Africa, we joined this international network in 2003 with the following convictions: that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation; and that the level of wealth a nation enjoys is determined by the health of its youth population.
In 2003, we observed the first Candlelight Memorial in Umuokanne in Ohaji/Egbema LGA of Imo State and has ever since then organized this annual event, where we remember those that we lost to the epidemic as well as renew our commitments to show love, care and support to those already affected by the disease. We also use the opportunity to call on the government and other stakeholders on the need to do more to stop the further spread of the virus in the State.
The theme of this 30th anniversary celebration is “In Solidarity” and we wish to call on all stakeholders and the government to do more to reduce the stigma suffered by people affected by AIDS, ensure their continued access to drugs, increase resources for their support and promote multi-stakeholder involvement in this struggle for a healthier society.
May we take it further once again by bringing our Government’s attention to the roles the traditional birth attendants play in delivering rural women of their babies and how these unskilled women can become very useful in this fight to stop AIDS. These women can be trained by the Government to become HIV counselors and referral agents in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).
We would also like to bring to the fore, the dangers associated with the use of unsterilized needles and clippers on women and men in salons.
How much does it cost to acquire your own needles and clippers? That is one of the big questions in this meeting…
The truth is that HIV is not only transmitted via unprotected sex as it is now believed. Our denial or refusal to understand that the virus is also being transmitted through sharing of unsterilized sharp objects is the challenge we must conquer in this struggle.
May we also use this opportunity to stress that HIV/AIDS is like every other disease, such as malaria, diabetes, typhoid fever, pneumonia, etc. People living with AIDS can live normal lives, be happy with their families and pursue their careers successfully. We need to increase awareness on this fact that these other diseases are now deadlier than HIV/AIDS in order to break the silence and stigma surrounding the disease. We hereby once more encourage everyone to know their HIV statuses because early detection is very important in HIV treatment, control and management.
My brothers and sisters, these are some important truths that we must tell ourselves, especially the youths. I know there are so many other truths that you all would be revealing to us this evening.
On this note, I wish to step down and I believe I have provoked someone into thinking aloud this evening.
God bless you for listening to me!
Hon. Remy Chukwunyere,
Executive Director, AFRYDEF