African First Ladies Join Forces to Fight AIDS
Create Organization, Adopt Action Plan

Geneva – 19 July 2002 – Taking an historic step in mobilizing to fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa, first ladies from throughout Africa have created the “Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS.”

“We are proud of what we achieved here in Geneva and we are now accountable for what we promised our people. We will not fail them,” said Mrs. Edith Lucie Bongo, the First Lady of Gabon, president of the new organization and a member of its five-member steering committee.

Recognizing the urgency of the HIV/AIDS epidemic within Africa, the First Ladies in a three-day summit meeting adopted an ambitious plan of action designed to enable the organization to be fully operational before the end of this calendar year, including funding options, an evaluation tool and a five-year strategic plan. They pledged to make concrete contributions to the fight against HIV/ADIS through advocacy, networking and resource mobilization. The First Ladies committed to focus particular attention on vulnerable groups, including women, children, youth and persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

“As members of this organization, the First Ladies will help strengthen existing national and regional AIDS programmes in Africa by engaging new stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Peter Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director. “Their leadership and dedication will inspire businesses, communities, families and individuals to do everything they can to prevent AIDS from further eroding African society.”

“The First Ladies gathered here are focused, committed, and tireless advocates. I have no doubt that their organization will be a powerful catalyst for action against AIDS. Their collective voice will send a strong message in their own countries, across Africa, and around the world. The International AIDS Trust is proud to be a partner in this vitally important effort,” said Sandra L. Thurman, president of the International AIDS Trust.

The new Organization will work with key stakeholders at all levels and in all sectors to expand access to essential prevention and treatment services and to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.

The organization will be governed by a steering committee, comprised of a First Lady from each of the five sub-regions of Africa. They include Mrs. Bongo of Gabon (representing Central Africa); Mrs. Theresa Kufuor of Ghana (representing West Africa); Mrs. Patricia Shanil Muluzi of Malawi (representing Southern Africa); Mrs. Aicha Mint Ahmed Tolba of Mauritania (representing Northern Africa), and Mrs. Jeanette Kagame of Rwanda (representing Eastern Africa.) The permanent secretariat, which will have three to five staff members, will be housed in the official headquarters of the African Union and will report to the Steering committee.

For more information, please contact Dominique DeSantis, UNAIDS, Geneva (+41 22) 791 4509, or Peter Paris, International AIDS Trust, New York (+1 212) 886-2200.