Royal initiative in AIDS fight

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 26 Feb 2003

THOSE working to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic will certainly approve of the situation in Swaziland - there the fight against the deadly disease has royal support. 

King Mswati III said he viewed the problems faced by his country seriously and took a special interest in addressing health issues, especially HIV/AIDSas it was “close to my heart”. 

“We want to reduce the number of people affected by this disease. Through programmes organised by the government, we hope to mobilise funds to deal with this problem,” he said during a 20-minute interview session yesterday. 

The 35-year-old king, who is a patron of the Royal Initiative to Combat AIDS (Rica), said Rica was putting together a music album to raise money for a fund under the initiative. 

“We also conduct educational programmes to teach people about preventive measures and HIV/AIDS related matters. 

“Support networks are in place to help the sick or families that have children or elderly parents stricken with the disease,” he said. 

When asked about the polygamy tradition practised in Swaziland and whether it contributed to the HIV/AIDS problem, the king - who has been in the news because of his many official wives - said the tradition was practised for many years but education was important to create awareness on the disease. 

“It (polygamy) has its advantages and disadvantages, but couples are encouraged to get tested for the disease before marrying. 

“I do not think the testing has to be made compulsory, but if people are educated and aware about the disease, they should do it,” he added. 

The king, who was crowned at the age of 18 and is on his fifth visit to Malaysia, said the Swaziland Government was also working with Malaysia on several agreements regarding health matters. 

He also said organisations like the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was important for countries like Swaziland to voice their concerns on poverty alleviation, economic development and HIV/AIDS. 

“In order to achieve international attention on such issues, NAM’s chairmanship must be strengthened to allow it to lead the movement to become a strong influence,” he said. 

He said a permanent NAM secretariat could also be set up with the support of member nations and play a role to improve the social conditions in developing nations, especially in the African region.  

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