Friday, August 18, 2006

No 'rational discussion' at AIDS conference, Clement says

Federal Health Minister, Tony Clement, is complaining that the international AIDs conference, hosted by Canada, is "in our view, was becoming a place where you couldn't have a rational discussion. I think things were way over the top, at least from some of the so-called experts and people that like to have an opinion on these things."
Activists, apparently, like South African AIDS expert Mark Heywood who has called for the resignation of Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, South Africa's Health Minister for promoting the use of garlic, lemon and African potatos as "cures" and falling in line with President Thabo Mbeki who stated that he doubted that HIV caused AIDs.
Mark Heywood: "It's not about denouncing traditional medicine, it's about giving people the information which could save their lives."
"Earlier this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who didn't attend the conference, said the conference had become "politicized.""
NO! Really!???
When you have governments like the US refusing to fund programs which don't promote abstinence instead of those offering REAL solutions like retro-viral drug programs or education on the use of condoms and South Africa's backward-thinking policies, is it surprising that the issue and discussions have been "politicized"? Hardly.....
Unfortunately, the current Canadian government appears to be falling into line behind the US in its policies on such things as AIDs prevention, preferring to push abstinence instead of education which MIGHT actually save lives.
At least these "so-called experts and people that like to have an opinion on these things" have opinions that they are willing to share... unlike our respected Health Minister who seems rather reticent about sharing his own opinions.
Tony Clement, in an interview with the CBC on Canada's "commitment" to the fight against HIV/AIDs, skirted the issues and the only thing he made crystal-clear was that he was able to talk a lot without saying much....
Carole MacNeil: Minister Clement, what is it that you want to accomplish at this AIDS conference?
Tony Clement: Canada has been at the forefront of AIDS research, and on the treatment and care and prevention of AIDS, both domestically and worldwide. Canada has invested over $800 million to date to fund HIV and AIDS. We're doubling our money domestically and we should continue to be working with agencies and the multilateral institutions on all of those fronts. So that's the first objective of the Government of Canada. The second objective is that this conference is a large international conference, and if we can continue to move the agenda forward, in both the research that is being done - because this is a conference of scientists and as well as activists * - and in terms of the continuing work we have to do together to collaborate on the treatment and the care and the prevention, then I think we will have achieved something.
*-- "because this is a conference of scientists and as well as activists" -- You will recall he seemed particularly perturbed by the presence of "so-called experts and activists".

MacNeil: So you have those two particular goals, rather wide ranging - how will they manifest themselves specifically in terms of announcements? Or what you intend to do or announce during this conference?
Clement: Well, I obviously will make announcements when we are making announcements, but I can certainly tell you that Canada has been engaged and has been at the forefront in many differents aspects of fighting HIV and AIDS, and we will continue to be so engaged. The new government of Canada will be emphasizing that commitment with my presence, with Minister Josee Vernert's presence as well, as Canada's head of international development agency.
MacNeil: ..... Stephen Lewis, the special UN Envoy for AIDS to Africa has criticized the government saying, “Canada is lapsing into banalities and irrelevance to which the Canadian government seems so severely addicted.” He says, “the government has been delinquent and hypocritical because they have not set out a timetable for the funding of the 0.7% of the GNP and also because its legislation is turning out to be a lame duck.” What’s your response to that?
Clement: I mean Stephen is doing what Stephen does and what Stephen has to do. He has to be a very articulate advocate on behalf of the fight of HIV and AIDS.... *
Really? Which I guess lets Tony Clement off the hook in the Need-To-Be-Articulate Department. Stephen Harper, of course, chose not to attend or even speak at the conference and hasn't actually made any statements about the issues that would have been memorable enough to be called "articulate". And, we all know that Mr. Clement is still under the "Stephen Harper Parliamentary Cone of Silence" which requires all Conservative Members to keep mum on all issues, not to make eye-contact with the Press, and if it becomes absolutely necessary to speak, speak in tongues.

MacNeil: What do you think is essentially the problem with the legislation?
Clement: Well, I'm hearing different things about different things*, about whether the regulatory framework is the right framework, whether it provides enough prodding for things to get done. There are others who say there are different avenues for other countries who wish to gain access, to gain access. So there is a multiplicity of views as to why things can be done*, and what can be done in the future. But my point of view is that we have to get beyond that *, get the expert advice, and then if there is a problem to be fixed, that it's within the government of Canada, because not all problems are fixable here.
* Oddly enough, you didn't actually answer the question about wwhat YOU THOUGHT is the problem with the legislation.....

Oh dear.... Words fail me....
Who elected this dimwit and the government to which he belongs? I know I didn't.

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