News: 77 nations share HIV, AIDS best practices at IMilHAC
Story by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson
MAPUTO, Mozambique – More than 445 military and civilian delegates from 77 nations gathered here, May 7, to share best practices in HIV prevention, care and treatment.
The armed forces for the defense of Mozambique, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program and U.S. Africa Command, is hosting the third International Military HIV/AIDS Conference, May 7-10.
This year’s conference is themed “Re-energizing HIV campaigns” and a dozen guest speakers will address issues considered key to maintaining a successful HIV/AIDS prevention program.
The highlighted topics for the event include: the role of leadership in successful military HIV/AIDS programs; the best military health system practices in HIV prevention, care, treatment, and strategic information; facilitating military-to-military technical assistance, networking, and partnership; and consolidate advances in military medical HIV programs to support an agile, effective and sustainable response to the epidemic.
The key-note speaker for the opening ceremonies was Prime Minister of Mozambique Aires Ali, who stressed the importance of an HIV/AIDS prevention program in the military and thanked the United States and U.S. Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. global AIDS coordinator, for their continued support regarding HIV/AIDS prevention.
“This is a vital opportunity to learn from each other about the HIV interventions that are working for militaries and their families and I hope we can draw from every nation’s experiences and create a roadmap to eliminate the threat of AIDS from every military,” said Goosby, during his opening remarks.
Though the fight against HIV and AIDS has a long way to go, the presence of the military representatives at the conference is evidence of their commitment to combating HIV and AIDS, said the U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique Leslie Rowe.
A military commitment to fighting AIDS and HIV is especially crucial because it not only affects the individual, but also has a direct impact on the strength of national security.
“AIDS is not simply a social, economic or health matter – it is truly a national security concern. We hope to contribute to the shared intentions and contributions of partner nations to make a difference for our military force protection, health and capabilities,” said Maj. Gen. Barbara Faulkenberry, U.S. Africa Command logistics director.
“If a nation’s military is hollowed out by this disease, not only can we not secure our borders, but we cannot defend our nation and that is why we are here,” she said.
For all of these reasons and more the U.S. remains committed to eradicating this pandemic virus from the world.
“Last November the United States embraced the vision of an AIDS free generation. It’s an inspiring goal and militaries will be the front lines in the fight to achieve it,” said Goosby.
In 2001, the U.S. government established DHAPP to help combat HIV and AIDS in Africa and India and since the first IMilHAC conference in 2009 the event has grown from 150 participants to more than 400 today.