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Photos: Ghanaian peacekeepers in DR Congo observe World Aids Day

The United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has commemorated World AIDS Day (WAD) on Saturday, December 2, 2017, at Ghana Battalion Headquarters (GHANBATT HQ) in INCAL Complex, Kinshasa-DR Congo.

The WAD is celebrated around the world on 1 December each year to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS pandemic, commemorate those who have passed on as a result of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses as well as celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services. The day was instituted in 1988 and has become one of the most recognized international health days.

The theme for this year’s WAD was dubbed “My health, my right.” The right to health is the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, as enshrined in the 1966 International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights. WAD focuses on the right to health.

These include the right of everyone, including people living with and affected by HIV, to prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, to make decisions about their own health and to be treated with respect and dignity and without discrimination.

The Guest of Honour was the Director of Mission Support (DMS), Mr Paul Buades. He reiterated that everyone, regardless of who they are or where they live, had a right to health; which was dependent on adequate sanitation and housing, nutritious food, healthy working conditions and access to justice. He said that ending AIDS as a public health threat could only happen if the right to health, which is supported by, and linked to a wider set of rights, was placed at the center of global health, so that quality health care was available and accessible for everyone and left no one behind.

Mr Paul Buades further stated that the right to health campaign provided information about the right to health and what impact it had on people’s lives; as it aimed at increasing the visibility around the need to achieve the full realization of the right to health by everyone, everywhere. He added that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which included ending the AIDS epidemic depended heavily on the right to health because almost all the SDGs were linked, in some way, to health.

The DMS noted that remarkable progress was being made on HIV treatment. According to UNAIDS, there had been a significant rise in HIV treatment. In 2000, only 685,000 people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). However, by June 2017, 20.9 million people had access to the life-saving medicines. “Such a dramatic scale-up could not have happened without the courage and determination of people living with HIV demanding and claiming their rights, backed up by steady, strong leadership and financial commitment”, he said. The DMS was the first to undergo the voluntary confidential counseling and testing (VCCT), to show his commitment to the eradication of HIV/AIDS as well as encourage all personnel to participate in the VCCT.

Other speakers at the ceremony were the Director of United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) and the Officer in Charge of the MONUSCO HIV/AIDS Section, Dr. Guy-Guy Ndongosi-Makangila. Each underscored the need to step up efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030, applying the human rights principle of non-discrimination, equality, participation, access to justice and accountability. The Director of UNJHRO revealed that gays were twenty-four times more likely to attract HIV whilst transgender people were twenty-eight times more likely to attract the virus than people with normal sexual orientations.

As part of activities to commemorate WAD, a short parade was held with a contingent each drawn from the Ghanaian Battalion (GHANBATT), Bangladesh Formed Police Unit (BANFPU), Egypt Formed Police Unit (EGYPTFPU) and Republic of South African Contingent (RSA CONT), with the GHANBATT Band in attendance. There was also a quiz session to test participating contingents’ awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, its causes, mode of transmission as well as a demonstration on the correct use of the male and female condoms. At the end of the programme, voluntary confidential counseling and testing (VCCT) was organized for personnel to know their HIV status.