On December 1, 2014 in the Oio region of Guinea-Bissau, ADPP organized a 5km march to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. After the march, the community gathered to hear speeches, including from the Governor of the Oio Region, Dr. Anita Djalo Sani. Before the Governor took to the podium, Hati Mapingu, the project leader for the ADPP Community Health Agents program, delivered a short address, and invited questions from the audience that had gathered. Here is a transcript of Mapingu's speech:
Your Excellence, Governor of Oio Region, Administrator, Bissora Sector, partners of ADPP in the region, ladies and gentlemen,
Being the 1st of December (World AIDS Day), allow me to lead a minute of silence in respect of those who have lost lives in the battle against HIV AIDS.
My point of departure is a short history about today´s occasion. What is World AIDS Day?
World AIDS Day is held every year on the 1st of December. It is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV AIDS, showing support for people living with HIV and honoring those who lost their lives as a result of this scourge.
Ladies and gentlemen, World AIDS Day was the first day in the global health situation that began to be celebrated in 1988.
Why is World AIDS Day important?
Around the world, it is estimated that 34 million people have the HIV virus. More than 35 million people have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in history. Today, many scientific advances have been made in the treatment of HIV. There are laws to protect people living with HIV and people understand much more about the disease. But despite this, people do not know the facts about protecting oneself, and others who are suffering from HIV.
Stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. Stigma and discrimination is worse than the disease itself. People die as fast as possible as a result of stigma and discrimination. The World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public, government, and all people that the HIV issue has not gone away. There is still a vital need to raise funds, raise awareness, fight myths, and improve the people´s education on HIV and AIDS.
In Guinea-Bissau, young people indulge in sex prematurely: one in three girls has sex before the age of 15, and 30% of girls have a baby or become pregnant before the age of 20. Furthermore, only 15 % of girls have a thorough knowledge about HIV, it means that 85 % of girls do not know the ways to avoid HIV infection.
Early marriage and pregnancy are the main causes of girls leaving school. For a better future, girls need special support. Girls need support to protect them and be protected against unwanted pregnancy and unsafe sex. They must be protected to stay in school, advised to delay the onset of sexual activity, avoid early marriage, and use condoms every time they have sex.
Ladies and gentlemen, what should we do on World AIDS Day? World AIDS Day provides us an opportunity to learn all the facts about HIV and AIDS, and put our knowledge into action. Do we actually know in practice how HIV is transmitted, how it is prevented, and the reality of living with HIV/AIDS?
If we know these facts well, that is very good.
If we do not know – it’s never too late!
Everyday, you see the men and women whom we call ADPP Community Health Workers; walking from house to house with health and hygiene messages including how to fight and prevent HIV in our communities. We thank you for the support you always give them. They give out messages, create debate environments, and go together with you into actions all in an effort to fight preventable diseases.
Together with our partners, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, we will continue to fight these diseases until we reach to zero…
I thank you!