By Dan-Maryam Zayamu
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has described the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as a strong voice in the fight against AIDS. While saying that the late cleric helped end apartheid in South Africa, it further stressed that a ‘giant has fallen.’In a statement, the UNAIDS said it is deeply saddened at the passing of the Archbishop who fought against apartheid in South Africa and combated racism and injustice worldwide.“He was a powerful voice in the fight against AIDS, combating denial, demanding access to treatment for all, calling out against discrimination of people living with HIV, and championing the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, women, and children. His work on HIV and tuberculosis prevention and treatment changed global paradigms and saved many lives,” the statement said.The statement, however, quoted the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima, as saying: “A giant has fallen. Archbishop Tutu was a freedom fighter, a holy man, a great hero who played a history-shaping role in the liberation of Africa.
“He was a leading light who brought global attention to injustice in a way few others could and a champion for the rights of all people living with and affected by AIDS. Millions are alive and free today because of the path he charted and the hope he brought to this world.
“People, not profits, must be at the centre of patent law for medicines.”
Archbishop Tutu was outspoken in calling for an end to AIDS denialism in South Africa. He fought for access to lifesaving medicines.
Archibishop Tutu, according to the UNAIDS, called on pharmaceutical companies to make AIDS medicines accessible and that he was also a champion of rights of gay people. He likened laws that criminalize forms of human love as apartheid laws—”so obviously wrong”.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was an advocate for preventing HIV infection in adolescents and young people. He co-chaired the UNAIDS commission on HIV prevention in 2011 that led to setting bold global targets for HIV prevention. He extolled on young people to take on the leadership on AIDS.
“UNAIDS has lost a friend, guide and mentor,” said Ms Byanyima.“
While condoling with the family of the cleric, UNAIDS said: “Our thoughts are with his family, the people of South Africa, and many around the world whose lives he touched and changed for the better.”
By Dan-Maryam Zayamu