- A new initiative in Senegal is uniting the country's leaders - from government and business to the arts and media - in the battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS. The Dakar government and UN agencies facilitate the initiative.
These activities began to take shape at a workshop earlier this year in which eight Senegalese ministers "learned the need for emotional intelligence - traits such as empathy, motivation, persistence, warmth and social skills - vital for effective interpersonal relations and leadership in dealing with the epidemic," today reports the UN development agency, UNDP.
UNDP had organised the Dakar event in partnership with Senegal's Ministry of Health and the National Council for the Campaign against HIV/AIDS, the UN agency reports.
Subsequent events brought together 120 high-level representatives from 14 ministries, civil society, the private sector, and the arts and media. "If Senegal is cited as an example in containing HIV/AIDS, it is still possible to do better if everyone tries and every sector is fully committed," former Health Minister Eva-Marie Coll Seck told the group.
According to UNDP, participants had learned techniques for effective leadership and organisational change, based on emotional intelligence, during three sessions in June, July and September.
Ahmed Rhazaoui, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, had told the group that UNDP was committed to providing technical and financial resources, in addition to support by other partners and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to help Senegal attain the objective in its national plan for 2002-2006 of maintaining gains against the epidemic.
The aim of the initiative was to "keep the infection rate for adults below 3 percent, improve the quality of life for people living with the virus, reduce the socio-economic impact of the epidemic and make anti-retroviral treatment and medication against opportunistic infections available," according to the UN agency.
Dr Moustapha Gueye, UNDP Senior Policy Advisor, and Dr Ibra Ndoye, Executive Secretary of the National Council, further had noted that though the prevalence rate is low, Senegal is at a crossroads and faces great challenges in mobilising every level of society and all sectors of government against the epidemic.
Between the sessions, participants had also developed practical initiatives drawing on lessons learned. Three journalists, for example, had launched "Pens for Life against HIV/AIDS" to mobilise a dozen leading writers to support the campaign against the epidemic, UNDP reports from Dakar.
Participating artists were seeking a breakthrough in community HIV/AIDS awareness programmes based on the arts through an initiative next year. The Ministry of Tourism further had told UNDP it was planning to mobilise 19 tourism organisations to carry out awareness-raising activities for their members.
The Ministry of Civil Service is to organise a campaign against stigmatisation of people living with HIV/AIDS by putting in place a legal framework of protection. Private sector leaders were planning to set up committees in their enterprises over the next two years to support the campaign against the disease, UNDP says.
According to the UN agency, "leadership training enables those in top positions in every sector to better understand, listen and mobilise to achieve effective and lasting results at the local, regional and national level."
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