Rwanda’s First Lady, Jeanette Kagame, is speaking out on the AIDS pandemic, calling it the biggest catastrophe ever to hit the world. She made the remarks at a press conference at the 15th International AIDS conference in Bangkok.
Mrs. Kagame began by emphasizing the importance of the AIDS conference - the largest ever official meeting on HIV/AIDS.
"Just the presence of thousands of people at this world conference is one way of showing commitment," she says
The First Lady said she hoped the efforts in Bangkok would “filter back,” as she put it, to make a difference in communities throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Ms. Kagame says she and others have formed the Organization of African First Ladies, known as “OAFLA,” to help fight HIV/AIDS. As an example, she says in Zambia, the group provides scholarships to vulnerable high school age children orphaned by AIDS. She says the organization is working with the World Food Program to provide monthly food supplies to families affected by HIV. OAFLA also helps families start small businesses so they can reach financial independence. She adds that HIV/AIDS patients in need of treatment are welcomed at Rwanda’s University teaching hospital. Rwanda’s First Lady says mobil health clinics have been established to reach out to those in need. Mrs. Kagame adds that members of her group are not the only ladies working on the problem.
"We have also involved wives of members of Parliament, who have been trained as counselors, so they can take the HIV/AIDS message back to their husbands’ constituencies," she says. Mrs. Kagame says the theme of the AIDS conference is an inspiration for the future.
"If we are to achieve the theme of this world conference, “Access for All,” [it] should mean access to information, care, research and feedback, ARV treatment, a clean environment and above all, the political will to fight this scourge," she says.
Mrs. Kagame says she’s sure she speaks for all the first ladies when she expresses genuine concern and interest in the welfare of all those affected by HIV/AIDS.