AIDS Group to Attend NY Talks

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK It has transpired that the Government was not aware that HIV/Aids groups have been excluded from participating at the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/Aids. This emerged after a letter was forwarded to the Office of the President complaining that the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) had been excluded from participating at the international conference planned for New York. Recently, the alliance sent a letter to the Office of the President raising concern over its alleged exclusion from this session scheduled for next month in New York. Last week, United Nations General Secretary’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis, who was in the country revealed that though a letter was forwarded to the President’s Office, the Government was not informed about ARASA’s exclusion. The alliance last Tuesday issued a press release condemning the Namibian and South African governments for allegedly excluding them from participating at UNGASS, adding that the exclusion of human rights organisations working at the epicentre of the epidemic undermines the efforts to effectively assess the human-based response to HIV/Aids. They called into question the credibility of the entire UNGASS Review process. On inquiry about the alliance’s exclusion, the UN envoy stated, “There have been significant negotiations in the last 24 hours. In Namibia it is interesting because the ministry did not know about ARASA’s exclusion.” He described this misunderstanding as an administrative matter and that the Namibian Government had no such intention. “There was certainly no objection, there was no fracas,” he added. Representative from ARASA Secretariat Michaela Clayton told New Era that the meeting that was supposed to have taken place last Thursday between the alliance and the Ministry of Health and Social Services did not take place but she was confident that the matter would be resolved possibly by tomorrow. ARASA is a regional alliance promoting a human-based response to HIV/Aids in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It comprises 14 non-governmental organisations in all SADC countries. The UNGASS Review is a critical gathering for leaders around the world, where government leaders and civil society assess the progress made in combating the disease.