On December 1 every year, the world comes together to commemorate World AIDS Day. Leadership has been chosen by the World AIDS Campaign as the theme for World AIDS Day 2007 and 2008. This theme will continue to be promoted with the slogan "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise." The theme for World AIDS Day has been determined by the World AIDS Campaign since 1997.
For this issue we asked a few, select individuals, "What does leadership mean to you?" Here is what they said, but we'd also like to hear from our readers, so please visit us at www.positivelyaware.com and take the PA online poll, and tell us what leadership means to you.
||Julie Davids, Senior Consultant and founding executive director of Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP); www.champnetwork.org
Although it's easy enough to be a self-appointed leader, I believe the HIV/AIDS movement needs leaders who are effective in two ways: by their actions, and by their commitment to bringing out the leadership in others.
We must not fall sway to political or community leaders who talk the talk or who bring out a tasty spread at a meeting or reception. What are these leaders actually doing, and is it in our interest? In order to evaluate if it's in our interest, it's the collective responsibility of all of us as leaders to understand the issues and have the ability to read between the lines... and that happens best by coming together as groups to set our priorities and consider the contexts that will affect decisions made in or against our interests.
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An ethical and valuable leader will be part of creating a shared understanding of what we need to get, what we have to get it with, and how we are going to get there, valuing and nurturing the leadership of others rather than just showcasing themselves. To make this possible, all of us who seek change in the fight against HIV/AIDS should know our own strengths and weaknesses, our skills and our resources, so we can come together effectively.
And it's way past time to expand our notion of leadership -- the skills that people with HIV and their allies develop as parents, as neighbors, as the members of faith communities, and even those that you may have developed "out there" surviving on the streets are every bit as needed and valuable as being able to stand up and make a rousing speech. True leaders bring out the leadership of others so we can become powerful enough to win the change we need. Experienced leaders must work alongside and share experiences with a new generation of leaders, respecting (and learning from) their insights and making room for them to take on positions of power.
||Heidi Nass, treatment advocate and woman living with HIV
We should be winning this thing. HIV and AIDS are completely preventable. The means exist to do enough and tragic experience has taught us the extreme cost of doing too little.
What we lack is a culture of brave leadership unified in its adherence to the science of prevention and treatment. Certainly there are individual leaders among us -- people, organizations, even governments -- but each swims in a sea of indifference, denial and greed.
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In 2004 leaders in Brazil turned away $40 million from PEPFAR rather than publicly denounce prostitution, saying of sex workers, "They are our partners. How could we ask prostitutes to take a position against themselves?" Meanwhile, organizations in the U.S. claiming to serve people with HIV scooped up abstinence-only money from the government, with hands open and eyes closed to the damning evidence of the method's failure.
More than a dozen years ago, Peter Piot of UNAIDS told the world of the inevitable intersection of women's rights and HIV prevention. Today, as women and girls continue to comprise half of all global infections and more in some regions, the U.S. has altogether rejected family planning services as a necessity of women's health in PEPFAR. Voices raised for the rights of women to control our bodies and protect our health -- beyond the prevention of HIV from mothers to babies -- are lonely ones.
Members of my community of people living openly with HIV/AIDS have arguably done the most with the least to move forward rational and humane approaches to prevention and treatment. The best inhabit a radical honesty, a commitment to steadfastly articulate the truth as it is, however unwelcome, rather than what is polite and acceptable. It is a bravery that stands in bold relief against a landscape of too many who think showing up is enough.
The many examples of leadership in this epidemic, of bravely showing the way by going the way, remain outnumbered by those of disregard and complacency. Without more decision-makers in all corners claiming HIV/AIDS as the enemy to beat, our best shot at winning this thing will be lost.
||Stephen Lewis, Co-Director, AIDS-Free World (www.aids-freeworld.org)
It is said, authoritatively, that Ban-Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, is increasingly frustrated by his inability to make progress on key international issues from Darfur to the Millennium Development Goals.
An AFP news report alleged that -- uncharacteristically -- the Secretary General recently lashed out at his staff at a meeting in Turin: "Our job is to change the UN and through it the world. This is the big picture. I am frustrated by our failure, so often, to see it."
I would argue that the problem lies within ... it's the failure of the Secretary General to do his job as the world's first citizen that has compromised so many of the issues that might otherwise be addressed.
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The United Nations has before it a recommendation to create a new international agency for women. It's a recommendation that has attracted the support of a majority of nation states. But it's moving forward at a snail's pace. The Secretary General, in obligatory and ritual speeches, has endorsed the idea, but he's never shown the energy to dramatically hasten its implementation. He's never instructed the agencies over which he has control, to advocate for the new entity at every opportunity. He's never summoned the leading country actors into his office and laid down the law. He's never called a press conference to admit, on the one hand, that the UN record on women is abysmal, and on the other that the world's neglect of women is catastrophic.
He talks about a big picture; he works in miniature.
But that's just one example. A burning crisis, again acknowledged with pro forma rhetorical vigor, is the terrible contagion of sexual violence that afflicts the world, especially in countries in conflict. Whether it's Darfur or Zimbabwe or the DRC, everyone knows that there's a war on women taking place.
In fact, things are so out of control that on June 19th last, the Security Council passed a resolution declaring sexual violence to be a matter of international peace and security. It was unprecedented.
The carnage never ends. Yet, the United Nations has responded with almost criminal passivity. The voice of the Secretary General should ring with anger, indignation, dismay and accusation, day in and day out, relentlessly, indefatigably, until the world and the Security Council come to their collective senses and are galvanized into action. That's called leadership. Anything less simply reveals that indifference at best and misogyny at worst have stifled the tongues of truth.
That's what leadership is all about: uncompromising principle. What has happened to the leadership of the United Nations is a tragedy: the nuance of diplomatic illusion trumps the passion of conviction and human rights.
It's not just Ban-Ki Moon. He's simply part of the legacy. Everyone -- myself included -- has time for the former Secretary General, Kofi Annan.
But stop and think for a moment; think about the AIDS pandemic and South Africa. Now that Thabo Mbeki and his lunatic Minister of Health are gone, all of the media in South Africa comment on the dreadful AIDS denialism pursued by Mbeki during the days of his Presidency and the awful human costs as a result. Leading members of the Treatment Action Campaign estimate that at least three hundred thousand people perished at the hands of Mbeki's intellectual barbarism.
But we knew what was happening all along. And what kind of leadership was it that no one in a senior UN position said a word as the corpses filled the gravesites for the last 10 years? Not the Executive Director of UNAIDS. Not the Director General of the World Health Organization. Not the Executive Director of UNICEF. And not the Secretary General of the United Nations. They simply watched the chapters of death unfold.
What meaning leadership?
This article was provided by Test Positive Aware Network.