Sheila Tlou inspires Canadian nurses

September 2016   Comments

Convention wrap-up • Saint John, N.B. • June 20-22

Teckles Photography Inc.Educator, activist and former Botswana minister of health Sheila Tlou was the opening keynote speaker.
With her colourful sense of humour and obvious passion, opening keynote speaker Sheila Tlou certainly did not disappoint. The director of the UNAIDS regional support team for eastern and southern Africa and a former Botswana minister of health came to the convention vowing to inspire young nurses to excel in primary health care.

In the global context, nurses are often the first on-site professionals in a variety of human-caused or natural disasters. Using the examples of Ebola, Zika, HIV/AIDS and SARS, she said, “Nurses are always at their best when it comes to these disasters, so we need to applaud ourselves to say we are proactive and have always been so.”

Tlou also spoke about cultural expectations for women that can sometimes be a barrier to personal and professional development, explaining that she believes it is important to define yourself before others do it for you. She proudly recalled her first advocacy action: blocking a child marriage in her village. Through that experience, she learned that to be successful in fixing a health issue, it must first be addressed at the community level. She encouraged attendees to continue to mentor young people, “so they can be the leaders that we wish we were.”

Tlou said that although the spread of HIV has slowed, a lot of work remains to be done. She provided a snapshot of the impact of HIV/AIDS in 2015:

  • 36.7 million people were living with HIV
  • 2.1 million people became newly infected
  • 1.1 million died from AIDS-related illnesses
  • 46 per cent of adults and 49 per cent of children living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral treatment
  • UNAIDS has an ambitious strategy to coordinate the response to end the AIDS epidemic in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.

    “Ending AIDS means leaving no one behind,” Tlou said. “Ending AIDS means implementing policies that go in favour of people who have long been criminalized and discriminated [against] based on gender, sexual orientation, race…or anything, for that matter.”

    Tlou took the opportunity to thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadians for their generosity in supporting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In May, Trudeau announced that Canada will host the Fifth Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund and pledged renewed and increased funding to the organization.

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