Dr Nafis Sadik, UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific

11 Jul 2008

Dr Nafis Sadik, UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific

Transcript of the Press Conference with the
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare
for the visit of
Dr Nafis Sadik, UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific

Good morning, before I depart for New York this afternoon to address the Security Council on the progress made and future challenges for UNMIT, I am particularly happy and delighted to be able to introduce Dr Nafis Sadik.

Dr Sadik is visiting Timor-Leste from 6-7 February to discuss the importance of, and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS issues.

Particularly, Dr Sadik is is here to raise awareness on the importance of focusing efforts on HIV/AIDS education and prevention campaigns before HIV/AIDS becomes a significant issue in Timor-Leste.

She has been involved with the UN for many years and in 1987 became the first woman in the history of the United Nations to be made head of one the UN agencies.

Dr Sadik is currently the UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific

She has worked and campaigned in the areas of reproductive health, population issues and family planning and has won numerous international awards and honours for her contribution to these fields.

I will now hand over to Dr Sadik for an opening statement and then we will accept your questions

Dr Sadik: Thank you very much. I have been here for just 24 hours, I am here as the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for HIV-AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.

Asia and the Pacific is still considered generally as a "low prevalence" area with a generalised epidemic in only a few countries. Within Asia, Timor-Leste is considered a low-prevalence country. And this is where in fact my role is very important as I have been tasked by the Secretary-General to convince leaders in low-prevalence countries that the time for action is now.

This means giving priority to HIV/AIDS and the way in which that this should be addressed. The leadership needs to speak out all levels about HIV-AIDS as a priority in all sectors of the society.

Secondly we need to have programmes for those most at risk, including men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers and their clients, and of course as a group, young people.

There have been many surveys and studies that show there is a lot of misconception and misinformation about how HIV may be transmitted. People believe it may be spread by mosquitoes, or sharing food with people and don't always know that it is a sexually transmitted disease or spread through the exchange of bodily fluids.

Condom use is very low by those in high risk groups and access to condoms for males and females is not high. I've had very interesting and positive discussions with the Government. For example, the Prime Minister agreed that he would be willing to speak out more and he wanted to understand reasons for why there is discrimination or stigma against the disease so he could address that in a more concrete way.

The Ministry of Education has agreed to introduce sex education and HIV-AIDS education into the curricula of the school system for the secondary and tertiary institutes. Also, to introduce HIV prevention education information about protection in adult literacy programmes.

The Minister of Health was also forthcoming to learn from other experiences in other countries and this year we will have a meeting of low prevalence countries in Manila and he's agreed to attend that, so he can learn from the experience of other countries.

I also met with Bishop Ricardo and that they will also do a lot more to speak out about stigma and discrimination and that they will introduce education for young people.

The civil society groups are quite active and there many organisations but they are still small programmes and they need more assistance and they need to be scaled up in to national programmes. They have some problems with access to condoms, and distribution systems, and access to their clients, so there are some issues that need to be resolved and these were identified.

And last, but not least, I want to recognise the very important UN system programme which is well coordinated and can lead by example. It is something that the Government could learn from. I have been to many countries and not all UN systems work together as one as it does in Timor-Leste. I want to specially recognise that and say that you are fortunate to have the leadership of this UN senior leadership. You can learn from them and they can learn from you and I would like to recognise my colleagues in this country.

Spokesperson. Does anybody have any questions?

Mr Khare, what can you tell us about the incident yesterday between the ISF patrol and as I understand it, the group of Major Alfredo Reinado.

We have received information that yesterday when the ISF patrol, near Lauala village in the Ermera District, was moving in that area there was some members of Alfredo Redinado's group who fired shots in the air. ISF has also confirmed to us that they did not fire any shot in return. No injuries have been reported. However, incidents of this type again bring me to the point that I have been saying from the very beginning.

It is extremely important that progress be made in the efforts to bring Alfredo Reinado to justice in a peaceful manner. And these efforts depend on the efforts of the Government and of Alfredo Reinado and his supporters.

And today, through you I want to call again on Alfredo Reinado, if he feels for this country, if he has the best interests of this country at heart to submit to justice in a peaceful manner.

UNMIT of course has a mandate to assist the country in the maintenance of public security and stability. And I, I would be telling the Security Council, depending on the developments today and up until the 14th of Febuary, that at the current state, the current juncture, the Government's efforts which are designed to bring Alfredo Reinado to justice in a peaceful manner should be supported.

I want to be very clear because there are many people who talk about solving the Reinado problem and I think that is a different question and not a question that I have asked at any time.

For me, to ensure the strengthening or rule of law and security in this country, the question has always been how to bring Alfredo Reinado to justice in a peaceful manner, which is a different question.

A question for Dr Sadik what are the efforts that have been made to deal with HIV-AIDS in Timor-Leste?

I think the country has done many things. It has a national strategic plan, it has a national aids commission, it has an active programme which is now being funded by the Global Fund and also Government funding It has four areas. One is the prevention and education of the high risk groups, mapping of high risk groups, providing education and services and access to treatment and care which is anti-retroviral treatment for those infected.

Also a number of civil society and NGO groups have been enabled to provide education and services to the high risk groups and they are doing very good work on accessing these people, looking after them and educating them.

Again to Mr Khare, there was, as I understand it, an explosion last night in the compound where the cantonment of the Petitioners will take place. Those two incidents with the ISF and Reinado in the same, what message will give to the Security Council in New York about the security situation.

The explosion was not in the compound. The explosion was on the road. As a result there is a certain portion of the road which has been affected which is about 15 feet.

PNTL, under the guidance of UNPol have begun forensic investigations. Of course yesterday as soon as the incident happened at 22.10 the PNTL task force immediately reacted and went there and remained there for about two hours. But there were no suspects, because despite arriving within 10 minutes, those who caused the explosion had left.

Through the media, I would like to appeal to the people of Timo-Leste that anybody with information who can assist in the investigation should provide the information to the police.

Coming to the report to the Security Council as you people have known me, I do not change positions on individual incidents. I still look at the broad picture. And looking at the broad picture I think that there is relative stability, but looking at individual cases I see that the security is fragile and which is why I strongly report the recommendations that the Secretary General has made to the Security Council that the UNMIT mission should be extended by one year.

I would like to ask about the letter that has been sent by FERTILIN to the SG on how to solve the Reinado case.

As you know every week I meet with the Prime Minister and the President. And regularly I meet with the leaders of political parties. After the announcement of the AMP government, as you remember the Political Party Accord clearly stated that those parties that form the Government will construct a meaningful role for the opposition.

Immediately in August I said I would have regular meetings with Mari Alkatiri as the Secretary-General of Fretilin and also the leader of the Opposition. Of course he does not agree to be the leader of the opposition, so I say every Wednesday the SRSG meets with the leader of the largest party outside of the Government. It just takes more words to describe the same thing.

So as you can see I am always in favour of this integral idea of democracy, that is, inclusiveness and broad based participation in decision making.

Ability to develop a consensus- or in the absence of consensus - to have compromised solutions is essential And therefore it is of critical importance that all parties in Timor-Leste must have the ability, that despite partisan differences, tost focus on solving the immediate problems, the Petitioners, the IDPs and how to bring Alfredo Reinado to justice in a peaceful manner.

All the parties have a responsibility to respond to that. And I am very happy to tell you that President Ramos-Horta, President of the Parliament Lasama , the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, and the leader of the Opposition Mari Alkatiri, all of them have agreed with me on this issue. A

I hope that with the efforts of President Ramos-Horta, who is the symbol and the guarantor of the sovereignty of this country, there will be positive results to the report to the Security Council by the Timorese authorities themselves.

It also important that apart from solving the immediate problems, parties and differences have to be set aside to promote the national interest. And these national interests immediately are related to the review of the security sector, the strengthening of the rule of law, promoting socio-economic development and promoting a culture of democratic governance. And I can inform you that in the first area, the review of the security sector reform a working group between FRETILIN and UNMIT has been established and it will meet every two weeks to take into account FRETILIN's opinion.

Yesterday's incident between Reinado and ISF, do you think it is necessary to set the limit of movement not to encroach in to Rienado's area?

The ISF is a legal force which is here upon the request of Timorese authorities to assist the Timorese authorities and to assist the UN. If any limit has to be placed, it has to be placed on the fugitive, which is Reinado. And this limit is what is known as cantonment and it is what the Government is trying to discuss and agree upon with Reinado.