Today, 10 December, is Human Rights Day.

Analysis: AIDS is a major global threat to human security. As the enjoyment of human rights is predicated on security, this Human Rights Day special edition of the Wednesday Watch features the visit of the First Lady Jeannette Kagame of Rwanda to UNAIDS, the United Nations Coordinating Agency for AIDS.

In May 2001, Mrs. Kagame hosted a summit of African First Ladies in Kigali to discuss strategies and propose concrete actions to combat the AIDS pandemic with a special focus on children. Her visit to UNAIDS last week was part of the follow-up to the recommendations of the First Ladies. Andrew Srulevitch, Executive Director of UN Watch, had the opportunity to speak with the First Lady during that visit. Following is an excerpt from that interview (translated from French):

“In our Declaration of Kigali we committed to use our influence to mobilize the necessary resources for the following priority applications:
*   The prevention of Mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS;
*   The prevention of HIV/AIDS among youth and women;
*   The development of formal exchanges of information and experience;
*  The development of coordination mechanisms, managed by the First Ladies at the regional and continental levels.

The purpose of my current visit is to discuss with UNAIDS and its partner agencies their support for the initiative of the First Ladies at the national, regional, and continental levels.

There are issues that are specific to Rwanda. One of the consequences of the genocide in April 1994 was the destruction of the demographic balance of the Rwandan population. Young men were the principal targets of the genocide, and now the current Rwandan population has a majority of women and children. These groups are at the greatest risk of HIV/AIDS infection. We have the obligation in the battle with HIV/AIDS to focus our national priorities on them. Otherwise, we risk letting this virus commit a second genocide against the women and children of Rwanda, our potential and our active population today.

This crisis concerns our immediate future, even the existence of our nation. We have no choice but to act immediately to combat the spread of this virus within our population, with all the partners and all available means. We agree with the Secretary General of the United Nations that AIDS has become an urgent security problem. ”

Over 70% of people living with HIV/AIDS are in Africa, where there are over 12 million “AIDS orphans.” UNAIDS and the UN’s International AIDS Trust should make the First Ladies’ Program a top priority.

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