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9311: AIDS: First Lady Mildred Aristide at launching of Interim Plan on HIV/AIDS (fwd)
TRANSLATION FROM FRENCH TO ENGLISH
SPEECH DELIVERED BY MADAME MILDRED T. ARISTIDE
The First Lady of the Republic of Haiti
Delivered at the ceremony launching the Interim Plan on HIV/AIDS
October 4, 2001
Honorable members of Parliament
Mayor of Jacmel
Representatives of the Government
Representatives of National and International Organizations
Dear Citizens of Jacmel
Last June 25, on the occasion of the extraordinary session of the United
Nations on HIV/AIDS, Mr. Kofi Annan, the General Secretary of that
organization, said that the world response to the AIDS epidemic did not meet
the challenge. That the efforts already being deployed were not sufficient to
Here in Haiti we knew this. To help increase our ability to fight AIDS the
elaboration of a global plan was necessary. For that the Health Minister
accelerated the process of elaboration of the Strategic Plan for 2002-2006
officially launched last
May 7th by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which represents an important
step within the context of this fight that concerns all of us. Diverse
multi-sector consultations have been held in view of finalizing the Strategic
Today the Interim Plan that the Ministry is presenting
responds to a timely need to increase and immediately reinforce the actions
against AIDS. This is an
operational plan that must bridge the gap with the
strategic plan for 2002-2006. This inevitably implies an articulation and
continuity between the interim and strategic plans.
I know that this document was created with the
participation of national and international agencies that are working to meet
the AIDS challenge
and better respond to all those who are affected and those at risk of
contracting AIDS. We welcome this cooperation with fraternity and a spirit
As you already know, I am neither a doctor nor a specialist in AIDS. I am a
lawyer by profession. So I will let the Minister and the other technical
explain in detail and in depth the Interim Plan.
But I would like to emphasize two points in the plan. First the multi-sector
aspect in the fight against AIDS. Global statistics clearly show the
correlation between AIDS and poverty: 90% of the people living with the
disease live in developing countries where the healthcare infrastructures are
poor, access to potable water difficult and the rate of literacy and
education are low. In countries where if you are a woman you have a greater
chance of suffering from discrimination. We know well, that fighting AIDS is
more than a medical war, it is also a war against social injustice; it is a
war against poverty.
But what are we doing concretely to advance this social justice in the
context of the fight against AIDS in Haiti?
Last weekend we visited the department of Artibonite,
the largest of our nine departments. There 1,091,374 inhabitants live on
4,983 square kilometers.
Artibonite is often called the bread basket because it
is the greatest producer of food for Haiti. The President chose this place
to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the bloody coup d’etat of September
30, 1991; an event which, with the forced migration of approximately 300,000
people and the introduction of rape as a new instrument in the political
repression, surely increased the number of persons and children exposed to
HIV. The fight against AIDS from now on must be one of the responses to the
injustices suffered by these victims.
A broader vision of the challenges posed by AIDS will lead us further in the
fight. It will lead us to the necessity to better organize or re-organize
national healthcare system. To this end, the government last May finalized a
loan of 22.5 million
dollars with the Inter-American Development Bank to
reinforce the healthcare structures in four departments, with the possibility
to train health
workers and purchase basic medicines, etc.
Unfortunately, instead of taking one step forward
toward social justice with such an initiative, the freezing of these funds
are limiting our efforts aimed
at improving the health conditions of the population. We sincerely believe
that this is unjust.
Back to the Artibonite. In the commune of Grand
Saline, it is not a health center that the population is missing. It exists.
But what is missing is an
access road to get there. So even when there are healthcare services,
without a road sick people cannot
get the health care that they need. Infrastructure,
like social justice, is an integral part of a healthcare program prepared to
face this plague that AIDS represents.
Now moving from road systems to other systems
apparently independent from health, it is the same thing. The agricultural
system for example:
approximately 60% of the employed population works in agriculture and
contributes to supplying food to the
country. But many people don’t have access to irrigation, fertilizers or
even land. The result is a drop in the production of food and an increase in
prices – with the disastrous consequences on nutrition and consequently on
the population’s health. And it is not only in Haiti. Nearly one-third of
the children under age 5 throughout the world suffer from malnutrition.
While the government has the obligation to take care of all our citizens who
have AIDS, the strategy elaborated in consultation with different partners to
combat AIDS must go beyond the medical field. Satisfying the fundamental
needs of the people –
nourishment, potable water, education – are important points of this
strategy. Our laws, our educational system, our campaign for literacy, are
tools which are essential to this struggle.
In all actions undertaken by the government, the participation of the people
is the key element to achieving success.
The same is true for AIDS. The second point I want to underscore within the
context of the Interim Plan is the participation of the population in the
against AIDS. At the heart of the Interim Plan, are plans to develop in all
of the state operated
healthcare facilities voluntary testing and counseling centers to reinforce
the capacity of the population to fully participate in the fight against
First, by making information about AIDS available to the population. Second,
by giving people the opportunity to be tested to find out if they are
infected or not and how to protect themselves and others. Women in
particular will be encouraged to
make informed and rational decisions on matters of
family planning. Infected persons will be cared for, with priority given to
pregnant women, they will
receive necessary social services, medications and nutritional support.
Because throughout the world and not only in Haiti, people living with
HIV/AIDS are the most determined and the most passionate advocates in this
war, and in this war we need all our citizens.
Here, at St. Michel Hospital in Jacmel, the state is
making a great effort in this regard by officially announcing the opening of
the first voluntary testing
and counseling center inside a state facility. I encourage the Minister and
all of you to continue the
implementation of the 9 other departmental sites as
quickly as possible.
Starting with the city of Jacmel, I believe that the
government chose to pursue the vision of decentralization that is at the
heart of its published
program, Investing in People. Emphasizing the reinforcement of public
institutions, the state is
fulfilling its obligation to provide healthcare for
all Haitians, as mandated by Article 19 of the Constitution. That is the
real work of a democratic
and responsible government.
Last August, I took part in a conference on health and
human rights at Partners in Health, a medical project in the Central Plateau.
Among the diverse
interventions and debates by patients, one said to us, “We hear much about
the negotiations which are
strangling the country. But for us, the real negotiations that should be
held are those which will lower the cost of medicine, increase the number of
Haitian doctors and nurses and increase the number of hospitals in the
I propose that we begin these negotiations within the
context of the fight against AIDS. It is up to each actor to clearly
identify her role in this context and
assume their responsibilities, and together we will be able to stop this
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