JIS News

Local Government, Community Development and Sport Minister, Portia Simpson Miller has said that creative ways of engaging people at the community level must be found if nations were to succeed in combating the HIV/AIDS scourge.
Mrs. Simpson Miller was making her presentation at a City AIDS Breakfast launch hosted by the Atlanta International Training Centre for Local Authorities (CIFAL), in the United States recently. “A strong associational life, a strong network of organisations and an active volunteerist movement is critically important if we are to successfully battle this pandemic,” she told the audience. The Local Government Minister stressed that the magnitude of this world crisis could not be over emphasised, particularly among people of African descent “as AIDS took over three million lives last year, surpassing malaria and tuberculosis as the greatest killer among communicable diseases”.
Addressing the issue of treatment, the Minister said that while in Africa millions were in need of treatment, it was estimated that only some 60,000 were receiving the medicine they needed. “In 2003 it was estimated that only eight per cent of pregnant women were offered services for preventing mother-to-child transmission and only eight per cent of those in need of receiving anti-retroviral drugs were receiving them,” she said.
“In this context, I welcome President Bush’s $15 billion AIDS programme over five years, yet the total support needed to deal with this pandemic is way beyond that and a massive effort is needed to literally save the world, for AIDS threatens not only its direct victims but every one of us,” she stated.
Mrs. Simpson Miller further informed, “this is where the importance of Local Government and the Local Authorities comes in” adding, “important to have the community organisations strong and functioning and where the importance of civil society action is particularly pronounced”.
The Local Government Minister told the gathering that the messages had to reach people where they lived, with the best conveyors of these messages being the people at the local level “who have the contact and credibility with the people most vulnerable”.She exhorted the business community, the media, and the entertainment industry to engage in this issue as the approach had to be multi-pronged and integrated. “We cannot afford to lose this war as too much is dependent on it,” she stated.
“It seems we are powerless against this tide of death, but we cannot give up hope – we must not. Let us grasp this opportunity to successfully fight this AIDS scourge,” she urged.
The Minister expressed the hope that the conference would provide the opportunity for sharing best practices and that it would contribute to strengthening the efforts of all countries represented. “This can only happen if we ensure that we vigorously implement what we learn from the deliberations,” she commented.
CIFAL is an affiliate of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), and has 12 centres worldwide, which provide training for local authorities.