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REMARKS BY H.E. JAKAYA KIKWETE, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA AT THE 2010 INTERNATIONAL MILITARY HIV/AIDS CONFERENCE APRIL 12, 2010, ARUSHA

Apr 12, 2010

H.E PRESIDENT JAKAYA KIKWETE
Distinguished Participants,
Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank the organizers, our friends in the US Department of Defence, for the great honour and favour you have done to Tanzania by giving us the rare opportunity of hosting this important meeting here in Arusha. I am confident that you will find your stay in our country enjoyable and rewarding. Arusha is the hub of Tanzania’s Northern tourist circuit. I hope you will find time to visit the world renown game parks which are only a stone throw away from here.

Ladies and Gentlemen;
HIV/AIDS represents one of the greatest global health challenges of our time. I am delighted that, in recent years, it has been possible for the international community to mobilize and act together against this scourge. This conference, which brings together experts from armies of 70 countries and other stakeholders, take that cooperation even further. This is a clear testimony of the resolve of all peoples across all nations and institutions to jointly fight this deadly disease.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The armies represented here today have in the past faced different enemies tight. Usually such enemies are easily visible and they are easy to confront despite that different levels of strength. The enemy that has brought us here today is a tiny creature, very elusive but more lethal and complicated to fight than any that our armies have faced in the numerous battlefields before. Since the disease surfaced and began its menace in early 1980s, about 25 million people including men, women, and children have been killed. This death toll far exceeds the military casualties from all the wars of the twentieth century combined.

The strategies and tactics we have to use to fight this enemy have to be special and comprehensive in nature because HIV/AIDS is more than merely a problem of individual suffering and death. HIV/AIDS has now become a personal, communal, economic and global security threat. It, indeed, has the potential to undo decades of social and economic progress made in our countries. It can be so pervasive that it destroys the very fabric of what constitutes a nation. Individuals, families and communities; economic and political institutions as well as military and other security establish are all at risk.

At the epidemic level, the impact of HIV/AIDS could be no less destructive than that of warfare itself. By overwhelming health and social services, inflicting high levels of human morbidity and mortality and by creating millions of orphans, HIV/AIDS can cause social and economic crises of unprecedented proportions and threaten political stability of nations. According to the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), infant mortality levels which have been on the increase because of this disease are one of the best variables in predicting state failure. Indeed, HIV/AIDS is a serious national security matter for our countries which deserves urgent attention.

Distinguished Participants,
It is of particular national, regional and international security concern when HIV/AIDS infiltrates our armed forces. In most of Africa, many military and security establishments have high infection rates. Some people say it may be five times that of the civilian population. During wars and conflicts, the problem could be even bigger.

Our armed forces form the basis of our country’s defence and constitute the underpinning of stability both within the state and between our neighbours. We, therefore, cannot and must not allow HIV/AIDS to debilitate our men and women in uniform. The security vacuum that would be created by weakened military forces may aggravate foreign and domestic threats to our respective countries’ national security. In its June 2001 report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned that even the perception that a neighbour’s military is suffering from an HIV/AIDS epidemic, suggesting a tactical advantage, might trigger – or increase the likelihood of - wars.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you know deaths from HIV/AIDS or any other cause results in the loss of personnel which affects military preparedness and increase the cost of recruitment and training of replacements. The implications for national security are clear: a military force that is sick and dying will not be as effective - or as dedicated – as the one that is healthy.

It is, therefore, heartwarming indeed, that 70 armies of different backgrounds and capabilities have managed to come together, share experiences and knowledge, develop strategies and work together in fight against humanity’s common enemy. The good thing about what you are doing is that your work is for the benefit of all the people not only those in uniform. This amazing unity of purpose and action as exemplified at this meeting gives me great inspiration and confidence that the end of this scourge is not a far fetched dream.

A forum of this nature provides ample room for sharing experience and knowledge in prevention, care and treatment, life support and surveillance. This conference being the third in the series does indicate that there is strong commitment and relentless determination for action.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Defence and security forces across nations have many things in common in terms of institutional environment, ethics and service prerequisites, just to mention a few. When it comes to dealing with the issue of HIV/AIDS in the military, there could be different approaches and strategies depending on the vision, culture and resources, among other things. But, I believe it is possible for nations to adopt certain standards, at least minimally, that can be universally applied. For instance, the practice of periodic and consistent determining the HIV status of the men and women in uniform being done by some armies could be practiced universally.

Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 1999, as the world was preparing to welcome the new millennium, there was a tremendous worry that the presumed Y2K virus, will crash the global computer network system as the calendar turns the year to 2000. Business leaders and politicians then, mobilized at least $200 billion to prepare defensive systems and responses, if that would happen. Fortunately the virus never showed up. But, for over three decades now, we have been living with the HIV virus decimating millions of people and causing sufferings to millions more, there isn’t as much enthusiasm to contribute as much money to fight this disease as there was with the virus that never was. If the $ 200 billion spent to prepare the world to fight a computer virus that never was, could be made available for the fight against HIV/AIDS, great progress would have been made. Perhaps we would have the cure or vaccine at hand. Definitely the world would be different today. While the global response to HIV/AIDS has been encouraging over the years, I still think much more needs to be done.

Ladies and Gentlemen;
A strategy to win the war on AIDS entails empowering nations and communities with tools and resources to mount effective advocacy campaigns to be able to undertake counseling and testing, to ensure access to drugs for those whose prognosis of the disease requires such an intervention. Also, to build capacities to strengthen health care systems to enable better delivery of care, and prevent mother-to-child transmission. It means making care, prevention and treatment part of a single continuum of response that is accessible to all.

It will be remiss of me Ladies and Gentlemen, if I do not recognize and express gratitude to the leadership of the US government in global health issues and in the fight against HIV/AIDS in particular. In the fight against HIV/AIDS the vision, compassion and generosity entailed in the US Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) speaks volumes about commitment and leadership to fight this disease. PEPFAR holds a special place in history as the largest commitment ever made and delivered by any nation to combat a single disease. For this, we thank the Government and people of the United States for their generosity and compassion. I appreciate also that other nations, international organizations, and private entities have provided the much needed support in this fight.

Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to conclude by once again emphasizing the importance of collective action to in this noble course: the fight against HIV/AIDS. This conference and this initiative shows how armies can meet to jointly undertake international obligations of common interest. As alluded to earlier, this is a global challenge and it is an obligation of all nations, all peoples and all institutions including national armies to rise to do needful or be seen to be doing something concrete in facing the challenge. This is a fight that we cannot and must not lose.

I am encouraged that the theme of this conference – Building Sustainable Capacity and Leadership to Combat the Pandemic - demonstrates that there is a joint determination of our armed forces to fight this scourge and win. The combination of professional backgrounds and practical experiences in the field of some of the participants give us every reason to hope that your deliberations will be fruitful and useful outcomes will emerge from this conference. I believe also that you will agree on better and more effective approaches and strategies to enhance this fight.

Once again, I thank the organizers for inviting me. I congratulate the TPDF and other partners for wonderful preparations of this Conference. I extend very special thanks to the leadership of the US Military HIV Research Programme (MHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) for spearheading these efforts and for the good leadership in HIV research and treatment efforts globally, including here in Tanzania. It is my sincere wish that these conferences could form the basis for deeper military to military cooperation in other spheres as well.

Distinguished Participants, Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

 I wish you successful deliberation.
I thank you for your attention.
IMETOLEWA NA IKULU

PICHA
Rais Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete akifungua rasmi mkutano "2010-International Military HIV/AIDS Conference" kutoka nchi za Latin America,USA, Asia na Bara la Afrika katika ukumbi wa AICC huko Arusha Rais Jakaya Kikwete akizungumza na Balozi wa Marekeni hapa nchini Mheshimiwa Alfonso Lenhardt mata baada ya mheshimiwa rais kufungua rasmi mkutano wa majeshi kuhusu ukimwi kwa nchi za Latin America,Marekani,Asia na Afrika unaofanyika huko AICC Arusha. (PICHA ZOTE NA JOHN LUKUWI)

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