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International News

UN Envoy Praises Kenya's New Government for Its Fight Against AIDS

May 5, 2003

After visiting Kenya and seeing the new government's commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS, the UN envoy for AIDS in Africa on Friday said he felt "a greater degree of hope and optimism." Stephen Lewis told a news conference that while Kenya's former President Daniel arap Moi's administration paid "perfunctory" attention to AIDS, his successor, Mwai Kibaki, is personally chairing a nine-member Cabinet committee he appointed to tackle the pandemic. "It's hard to describe the sense of change from the previous administration. Suffice to say, where HIV/AIDS is concerned, the change is night and day," said Lewis.

"Every conversation, without exception, demonstrated a new leadership that is intense, committed to confronting the pandemic, determined to put policies and programs in place, and consumed by the recognition that every single family in Kenya is affected in some way by the ravages of HIV/AIDS," the UN envoy said. According to Lewis, over 2 million Kenyans are HIV-positive, and the east African country has an estimated 1.2 million AIDS orphans.

Lewis went on to say that Kibaki's abolition of school fees for primary schools brought 1.2 million children -- including many AIDS orphans -- throughout the country into classrooms. "How is it possible that a campaign to eliminate school fees has not been launched across Africa?" asked Lewis, stressing the importance of education in HIV/AIDS prevention.

An overwhelming majority elected Kibaki and his National Rainbow Coalition last December, ending the 39-year rule of Moi's Kenya African National Union. Kibaki's reform platform included plans to enact a new constitution by this June and make Kenya more democratic.

In light of the new government's dedication to fighting AIDS, Lewis added, "There is no reason in the world... why Kenya cannot become the next Uganda." Uganda, Kenya's western neighbor, has maintained one of the most successful HIV/AIDS prevention programs, which stresses abstinence, being faithful to a single partner, and condom use when appropriate.

Back to other CDC news for May 5, 2003

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Adapted from:
Associated Press
05.03.03; Edith M. Lederer

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on Politics in Kenya