At the UN building in New York, an important meeting was held: "unite for universal access – UN high level meeting on AIDS", an important meeting to take stock of HIV/AIDS at a global level, which was attended by delegations from all over the world.
The Community of Sant’Egidio took part in this meeting as “special advisor” in the Italian delegation and the delegations of Malawi and Mozambique where they are present with the DREAM program. The presence of 3 activists, who are patients under the DREAM program, was specially important due to their commitment in the fight against AIDS in their countries, voices of Africa in search of care and of a future in this meeting.
One of the three activists, Pacem Mnyenyembe from Malawi, has intervened within one of the “side events”, entitled "Faith-based action to achieve universal access".
Here is the text of her speech.
«Having lived for seven years with HIV and AIDS and also on ART treatment, I would like to share with you my personal experience in the field of HIV. Life is never the same once one is diagnosed to be HIV positive because this is the time when one goes through hard times due to stigma, discrimination, fear , isolation and family break up. But life is there when one has access to treatment.
The benefits when life re starts are not only for the patient alone but for the family as a whole. The resources which are wasted when one is sick such as the support needed by the patients for clinical visits, are minimized because the patient is now able to support the entire family physically, financially and emotionally.
After going through all these difficult times I am now a witness for others because I want to give back freely what I received, by bearing witness with my voice, energy, and the power of resurrection that changed my life, because I believe that life must be respected and defended always especially when one is weak and sick and also to defend access to treatment as a human right, to be respected regardless of race, gender, religion, age or of any social and economic condition.
I feel the dignity of women should be restored and given back to husbands, fathers, and children together with the gift of their fellowship and human coexistence. With this remark allow me to make an appeal to ALL THE DONORS who have been supporting us during the pandemic:
We are asking for universal access to treatment, free of charge, for everyone in the whole Southern part of the world because Universal Access seems to be the only way towards the control of the infection and a reduction of the number of HIV positive people.
We are asking for the treatment to be considered an important part of prevention, I have experienced this myself: access to antiretroviral therapy not only decreases the number of diseases and death BUT also has a strong preventive action in reducing maternal mortality.
We are asking for the Right to be treated and the Right to Health because on the ground there is a big request to access treatment, hence World Aids Day, and there is a big response to all people who are coming to be tested and treated.
I feel Universal Access is not a Myth but a Reality at Local Level because Universal Access seems to be the only way towards the control of the infection and a reduction of the number of HIV positive people, I know a lot of people who are back to work or started to do a new job after getting treatment because life and hope are back, Universal Access today is the Hope for overcoming the infection in limited resources countries.»