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2010 International Military HIV/AIDS Conference
The 2010 International Military HIV/AIDS Conference, co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Tanzania People’s Defence Force, was held 12-15 April in Arusha, Tanzania. The theme of this year’s conference was “Building Sustainable Capacity and Leadership to Combat the Pandemic” and brought together representatives from nearly 70 militaries.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete presented the keynote address, emphasizing the importance of developing regional, national, and international strategies to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic. “HIV/AIDS has now become a personal, communal, economic and global security threat. It, indeed, has the potential to undo decades of social and economic progress made in our countries. It can be so pervasive that it destroys the very fabric of what constitutes a nation.”
The U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania, Alfonso E. Lenhardt, a retired U.S. Army Major General, also emphasized the connection between regional stability and HIV/AIDS control. In his opening remarks he said, “I am inspired because this meeting represents the readiness of military leaders from so many different nations to work together, learn from one another and together fight and conquer a common enemy.” He added that “leaders must understand the challenge posed by HIV/AIDS to the nation's security, and then act to overcome that challenge.”
Launched in 2003 to combat global HIV/AIDS, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history. DoD implements PEPFAR programs by supporting HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care, strategic information, human capacity development, and program and policy development in host militaries and civilian communities of nearly 70 countries around the world.
“In the fight against HIV/AIDS the vision, compassion and generosity entailed in the PEPFAR speaks volumes about commitment and leadership to fight this disease” said President Kikwete. “We thank the Government and people of the United States for their generosity and compassion.”
More than 300 people attended this year’s conference, which is a three-fold increase over the prior two years. Attendees included leaders from international militaries along with HIV/AIDS specialists, multilateral organizations, U.S. DoD/PEPFAR Program Managers and Headquarters staff, non-governmental organizations and academia. United Nations (UN) representatives were also present, which enabled discussions revolving around HIV/AIDS and peacekeeping missions.
The conference provided an important opportunity for militaries to discuss experiences, strengthen relationships and share successes and challenges specific to HIV/AIDS in the Armed Forces. “In relation to HIV/AIDS, I believe it can be done, should be done and will be done. Let our unity be the source of our strength to forge our way forward,” said Chief of Tanzania Defense Forces, General Davis Mwamunyange. TPDF senior medical officer, Major General Kohi Yadon, and the Defense Minister, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, also attended the conference along with many other distinguished Tanzanian representatives.
President Kikwete ended his address extending a “very special thanks to the leadership of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) for spearheading these efforts and for the good leadership in HIV research and treatment efforts globally, including here in Tanzania. It is my sincere wish that these conferences could form the basis for deeper military to military cooperation in other spheres as well.”
About the U.S. DoD and HIV
At this conference, the U.S. DoD was represented by both the DoD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (DHAPP), which is the DoD Executive Agent for HIV Prevention in foreign militaries, and the Military HIV Research Program (MHRP), which is centered at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Both of these programs receive support from the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). MHRP is principally involved in HIV vaccine research, but includes a large number of clinical care, treatment and prevention programs in the militaries of Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria through PEPFAR. DHAPP supports many other countries and militaries through technical assistance and support such as laboratory improvements and is the DoD lead for PEPFAR support to foreign militaries.
Combating HIV in Tanzania
The U.S. Government, through the United States Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) works in collaboration with the National Institute of Medical Research, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, the Mbeya Medical Research Programme, and their international partners led by the University of Munich (LMU), is part of a global effort to advance research for an HIV/AIDS vaccine in Tanzania. This research continues to expand in scope and diversity, including malaria, avian influenza and other emerging infectious diseases.
Research has been ongoing since 1999 to develop an effective HIV vaccine in Tanzania where the program has supported two vaccine clinical trials. Since 2004, MHRP has supported military and civilian counterpart organizations in Tanzania to fight HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR.