Started the week in Brussels, finishing it in Geneva. I’m here to talk to the African Medical Association. Doctors in Africa have been working for a long time to create a forum where their professional associations could come together to exchange ideas about shared problems. At last it has happened, in large part due to the hard work of two colleagues, Kgosi Letlape from the South African Medical Association, and Delon Human, formerly of the World Medical Association.
Although I don’t work in Africa I was there to talk about some work we have been doing on surveillance in fragile societies, which are all too common in Africa. It was really quite humbling to hear the accounts of the challenges that many of the delegates faced, in some cases even to get to the meeting. The health minister from Somaliland, a break away territory in the north of Somalia, had been waiting in Addis Ababa for two days to get a visa to attend the meeting. Contrast that with the ease with which our ministers travel the world.
One of the other speakers was Winnie Mandela. I had never met her before and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I was obviously aware of the controversy that had surrounded her in the past but also knew that, in recent years, she has been speaking out against the policies of the South African government on the need to tackle HIV seriously. What was in no doubt was her ability to motivate the audience. She is clearly someone who can get people to listen. I’m just glad that, at least in the case of HIV, she’s on the right side!