Aung San Suu Kyi and Michel Sidike.JPGOne of the world’s most prominent political prisoners, Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s World AIDS Day reception to be hosted by the Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Melbourne on December 1.

Leader of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi spent almost 15 years under house arrest between 1989-2010 due to her opposition to the country’s military rulers. In 2012, the Burmese politician was named by the UN as a Global Advocate for Zero Discrimination in its continuing fight against discrimination and stigma of people living with HIV.

“Respect for the human rights of people living with HIV must be promoted,” Aung San Suu Kyi said earlier this year.

“We also need to protect the people who live on the fringes of society who struggle every day to maintain their dignity and basic human rights. I believe that with true compassion—the invisible cord that binds us to other human beings regardless of race, personal status, religion and national borders—we can get results for all people.”

Michel Sidibe, executive Director of UNAIDS, told the Star Observer he was honoured to to be joining the famed political activist, who is also an UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, on her visit to Australia.

“She will inspire the people of Australia to speak out against HIV stigma and discrimination on World AIDS Day,” he said.

Wendy McCarthy, chair of the Pacific Friends of the Global Fund, said the presence of Aung San Suu Kyi would help focus world attention on Melbourne less than a year out from when it will host the AIDS 2014 conference.

“Aung San Suu Kyi has been critically important in combatting stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, both in Myanmar and globally,” McCarthy said.

“Her own story of struggle is an inspiring one that promotes the values of resilience and tolerance – exactly the values we need to defeat HIV.”

Co-chair of AIDS 2014, Professor Sharon Lewin, said the visit was timely as political will, financial commitment and scientific progress were all necessary to defeat HIV.

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s inspiring story and involvement in World AIDS Day in Melbourne helps us to highlight the ongoing challenge to deliver treatment and prevention programs in Australia and internationally,” she said.

“Hopefully Au sang su chi ‘s involvement will help put attention on marginalised groups in Asia Pacific region.

The 20th International AIDS Conference to take place in July 2014 will be officially launched at this year’s World AIDS Day event on December 1, to be attended by Victorian Governor Alex Chernov.


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Photo: Aung San Suu Kyi with UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe

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