In his 2011 Address, Father Michael reported on both good news in the area of HIV and AIDS, in particular that Civil Society was receiving further acknowledgement for its role in prevention and treatment. He repeated his call made at the time in Zambia for greater focus and collaboration with the Civil Society sector:
…there should be one coordinated and acknowledged voice from Civil Society: from all of those groups that work so relentlessly, so industriously in the fields of health, in education… particularly here in the field of HIV and AIDS, trying to reduce the impacts of the epidemic, and seeing how they can move in the areas of prevention and treatment.
In keeping with the UNAIDS 2011-2015 theme of ‘Getting to Zero’ (Zero new infections, Zero AIDS- related deaths, and Zero discrimination) Father Michael suggested that in order to get to an HIV- and AIDS- free world, there should be a fourth ‘Zero’: we must stop the politically sensitive “fudging” and do the real work necessary to tackle these issues effectively, which includes supporting further research, particularly into possible genetic determinants of HIV susceptibility. Here Father Michael also made mention of the great risk of ignoring genetic susceptibility in favour of avoiding discrimination and stereotyping. To help overcome this, he encouraged the open discussion of HIV susceptibility along the same lines as any other infectious disease.
…about 80% of the people of sub-Saharan Africa are carrying the gene that could lead to sickle-cell anaemia in their offspring. We’ve no inhibitions about that, but we ARE inhibited, and almost forbidden… to speak about this in relation to HIV, and I feel that that is wrong, and that that is something that needs to be changed.
You can listen to Father Michael’s inspirational and challenging 2011 Address by clicking the ‘play’ button on the left-hand side of the audio bar below.
Father Michael reminded the audience that we have underestimated the challenge to get to an AIDS free world, and that we must be provocative and honest in this field in order to see success.
The life of people is the wealth of nations. The lives of people are the wealth of the world.