AIDS Alliance Appeals to President

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) representatives will today meet with the Minister of Health and Social Services to discuss the alliance’s exclusion from participating at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/AIDS. Representative from ARASA Secretariat Mic-haela Clayton confirmed this to New era yesterday. This week, a letter was forwarded to the office of the President by ARASA, raising its concern regarding the information that the Government of the Republic of Namibia lodged an objection against ARASA and the AIDS Law Unit of the Legal Assistance Centre (ALU) being accredited to UNGASS to participate in the review meeting to take place in New York at the end of May 2006. According to the letter, this objection effectively prevents both organisations from participating in the review. As a regional organi-sation, ARASA’s exclusion from accreditation to the UNGASS Review negatively impacts on its entire partner organisations, which are located in each of the SADC countries, the letter reads. “This letter, to which even more signatures are being collected than just those listed, calls upon you, in your capacity as President of the Republic of Namibia, to exercise your leadership in favour of partnerships over exclusion. We ask you to clarify this situation.” Further, the alliance is interested in knowing if indeed it is true that the Government of the Republic of Namibia has objected to the participation of ARASA and the AIDS Law Unit at the UNGASS review meeting. Should that be the case, ARASA calls on President Pohamba to lift these objections to their accreditation. With its (ARASA) headquarters in Windhoek, the alliance feels the Namibian government demonstrated its commitment to respecting, protecting and upholding human rights, particularly in the context of its national response to HIV/AIDS. The alliance consists of 14 non-governmental organi-sations working to promote and build capacity around a human rights based response to HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. ARASA is the only regional network of civil society organisations working in the field of HIV and human rights in SADC and is recognised regionally, continentally and internationally as such. The scale of the HIV pandemic demands that all sectors of society must be involved in the response to HIV/AIDS, to the fullest extent of their capacities. The latest developments coincide with the visit of UN Aids representative for Africa, Steven Lewis to Namibia.