U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto addressed nearly 150 participants from more than 30 countries on Monday, July 23, 2007 during the opening ceremony of the third International Muslim Leaders' Consultation on HIV/AIDS. He urged religious and community leaders to return to their communities to educate others and bring communities together to fight HIV/AIDS.
"You can shape social values, promote responsible behavior, increase public knowledge and influence opinion, as well as change attitudes, policies and laws," Ambassador Yamamato said.
"The United States is grateful to you and for being able to support this conference and your continued commitment to this endeavor through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, and USAID."
The conference in Ethiopia, which has been strongly supported by the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, is following the theme of "The Islamic Approach to HIV/AIDS: Enhancing the Community Response".
In Ethiopia, PEPFAR partners have been instrumental in addressing HIV/AIDS by educating communities about HIV prevention through local Imams and peer educators, and strengthening anti-AIDS youth clubs.
The U.S. Government (USG) first started supporting Muslim communities to address HIV/AIDS in 1992 through a project entitled, "Family AIDS Education and Prevention Through Imams," implemented by the Islamic Medical Association of Uganda. In 2000, a group of Muslim practitioners decided to articulate an Islamic approach to HIV/AIDS in order to help their religious community respond appropriately. In 2001, the USG supported the Islamic Medical Association of Uganda to organize the first International Muslim Leaders' Consultation on HIV/AIDS in Kampala, Uganda. In 2003, the USG also contributed to organizing the second gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
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