The year 2000 has
been a turning point in the world's recognition of the global HIV/AIDS
In January, the
United Nations Security Council debated AIDS as an issue of human
security, the first time ever it has met on a health issue.
The focus was
again on AIDS at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September, when
leaders rose to address the most vital issues facing their nation and
the world. African leaders, particularly, spoke openly about the plight
of their countries. They were joined by other leaders from around the
world, from the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and Belize to the
Presidents of the United States of America and Viet Nam.
At meetings of the
G8 in Okinawa, the G77 in Havana, the European Commission and Union, the
Organization of African Unity, and CARICOM in the Caribbean, AIDS has
been the subject of a renewed commitment.
Our task now is to
turn these words of political commitment into action. The visibility of
AIDS at global and national levels is a major opportunity to increase
its visibility at the level of households and societies. This year's
World AIDS Campaign - Men Make a Difference - throws out the challenge
to men to be more open, honest and sensitive to differences in power
between men and women.
All too often,
silence between men and women about sexual matters results in their
failing to use simple prevention measures, and silence about partners
outside a relationship can result in a failure of protection.
Women bear an
increasing burden of both HIV infection and care. Many women discover
their HIV status when they are pregnant, yet their male partners remain
untested. Some of these women remain silent, fearing violence from their
partner or the ostracism of their community. This enforced silence cuts
off opportunities for their own care and support, as well as the
capacity to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their child.
men to care about the response to HIV/AIDS. Positive aspects of
traditionally male roles can be drawn upon, such as strength, courage,
leadership and protection. At the same time, men need to counter
destructive aspects of masculine stereotypes, such as recklessness and
The World AIDS
Campaign challenges men to take better care of themselves. Men often
behave in ways that put their own lives at risk, for example through
unprotected sex with women or men, or using unsterilized drug injecting
equipment. Men need particular support to care for themselves when they
are placed in difficult situations away from families - for example in
work migration, or in armies and prisons.
The world has a
global target, established through the United Nations, of reducing HIV
infection rates among young people by 25% before 2005 in the most
affected countries, and globally by 2010.
To make this
target a reality, the fight against AIDS must be embraced in every
community, in every country, in every continent. Turning back the
epidemic requires a sustained social mobilisation prepared to defeat
stigma and embrace bold action on both prevention and care. It needs
political leadership, social and economic planning, community
organisation and personal behaviour change. These are the tasks in which
men really can make a difference.