Former Botswana President Festus Gontebanye Mogae

Former Botswana President Festus Gontebanye Mogae

The ex-leader, who ruled the Southern African nation for a decade (1998-2008), said although he is no longer in office, he is still active in the fight against the scourge.

Mogae made these remarks on his most recent trip to Uganda where he officiated at the commissioning of the new home of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS Eastern Africa (ICWEA) in Ssenge, Wakiso on Friday.

The 75-year-old talked of his commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

?I belong to the group of former leaders who have continued to be involved in the fight against AIDS to ensure that AIDS death-related stigma and discrimination and transmission of the HIV virus from mother to child are reduced.?

Mogae said NGOs? unprecedented contribution in the struggle against the global pandemic has tremendously reduced the HIV prevalence in Uganda.

The third president of Botswana, Mogae said that while Uganda was registered with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world in the 1990s, his country ranked second during his tenure.

For decades, sub-Saharan Africa has been the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, affecting millions of people in the region. As of 2012, approximately 35.3 million people are living with HIV globally.

Although hundreds continue to get infected every year, several interventions have been introduced over the years to help curb the spread of the virus.

?Champions and activists?

On his part, Mogae urged current and former African presidents to unite in the ongoing fight against the pandemic.

He explained that the mother-to-child transmission in his country is currently at 4%, and that the statistic should be the target for all African countries, if AIDS is to be wiped out among children.

?We countries of the sub-Saharan region are bearing the burden of the AIDS virus. We must be seen and heard ? by coming out openly.

?The problem with African leaders is that we take ourselves to be champions and activists instead of joining hands to struggle with the affected people. If we do not act now we will lose more people.?

The former president said although African countries are poor they can do much better with the little funding availed to them, and urged members of the ICWEA to support each other and avoid discrimination amongst themselves and their families.

ICWEA is part of the global network of Women Living with HIV (ICW) in Uganda founded in 2006. Mogae also hailed the political will in ensuring that Uganda becomes AIDS-free.

Steven Lewis, the co-director of AIDS-Free World and a guest motivational speaker, regretted that while the world is planning to withdraw funding from organizations that are doing excellent work like ICWEA, they are sinking more billions of dollars in fighting wars in Iraq and elsewhere.

Lillian Mworeko, the ICWEA East Africa regional coordinator, called upon government and donor agencies to continue supporting women NGOs without attaching strict conditions to their funding.

She said: ?Most donors give funds but set strict conditions. I appreciate donors from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and the Norwegian people who gave us funding and left us to utilize it in the way we deemed best.

?The result is this state-of-the-art home [newly commissioned in Wakiso.?

By Juliet Waiswa & Elvis Basudde, The New Vision

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