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HIV/AIDS: What Educators Should Know

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By Tiffany A. Chenneville & Howard M. Knoff, Ph.D.
University of South Florida
Special to the NNPA from The Westside Gazette


Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is not only a health crisis, but a social crisis that has affected every sector of the United States. The number of persons with AIDS in the United States is staggering, and it continues to multiply. Furthermore, the growing number of individuals infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, is even more disturbing. Nobody is immune because AIDS does not discriminate by sexual orientation, gender, race, socioeconomic status or age.

The failure of AIDS to discriminate by age is evident by the growing number of children and adolescents infected by HIV/AIDS. There also are scores of children who are not infected, yet are affected by HIV/AIDS because one or both of their parents, or other family members, have been diagnosed as being HIV positive or having AIDS. In fact, an increasingly large number of children have been orphaned by parents who have died from AIDS. It is estimated that over 80,000 children will have been orphaned by the year 2000 due to parental deaths caused by AIDS. Non-infected children and adolescents also may be affected through their association with peers or significant others who are HIV positive, have AIDS, or who have lost loved ones due to AIDS.

HIV/AIDS in Children and Young Adults: As of June, 1996, over a half a million (548,102) diagnosed AIDS cases had been reported to the Centers for Disease Control. Approximately 1.3 percent (or 7,296) were children less than 13-years-old. This is a significant increase from the 3,898 pediatric AIDS cases reported just three years before in 1992. Relative to adolescents, the incidence of AIDS also is considered to be large and increasing. In fact, AIDS is considered to be one of the leading causes of death among teenagers, and it is estimated that two individuals under the age of 25 are infected with HIV every hour.

AIDS is also the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 25 to 44 in the United States. This is significant because it is believed that many of the young adults currently infected with HIV/AIDS may have contracted the HIV virus during adolescence. Thus, adolescent incidence figures may underestimate those who contract HIV but do not exhibit its symptoms until early adolescence.

Relative to gender, HIV is being contracted more rapidly by women, including young girls and adolescents, than by men. Critically, the large and increasing number of females with AIDS also increases the probability of children being born with HIV due to prenatal or perinatal transmission. It is estimated that 25 percent of infants born to HIV-infected mothers will themselves become infected. These children represent one of the fastest growing groups testing positive for the HIV virus.


HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the virus that causes AIDS.

AIDS – Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, the condition that results from HIV infection. AIDS is distinguished from HIV by the presence of an opportunistic infection or a T-cell count of 200 or less.

What We Know About HIV/AIDS


HIV is transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and in some cases, breast milk. This allows for many possible modes of transmission including the following:

Sexual contact (vaginal, anal, oral) with an HIV-infected person

Sharing needles or syringes with someone who is HIV positive

Mother to child transmission during pregnancy, during delivery, or in some cases, through breast feeding

Blood transfusion with contaminated blood products, although the risk of HIV transmission through blood trans-fusions is minimal given current blood screening practices employed by blood banks.

It is critical to note that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact.


Abstinence from sexual activity Condom use during sexual activity (vaginal, anal, and oral) Not sharing needles or syringes. It is critical to note that condoms are not 100 percent effective but greatly reduce the risk of HIV trans-mission.

Facts about AIDS:

You cannot tell if someone has AIDS by looking at them.

Currently, there is no cure for AIDS.

Currently, there is no immunization to guard against the transmission of HIV.

AIDS affects people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic status, and individuals with different sexual orientations including heterosexuals, bisexuals, and homosexuals.

No cases of AIDS have been reported due to kissing, biting, or mosquito bites.

HIV is not transmitted through touching or hugging.

HIV cannot be contracted from donating blood.

There are no reported cases of HIV being transmitted from child to child or child to staff member in a school building due to fights or contact sports.

Impact of HIV/AIDS on Children and Adolescents

Many issues relative to academic and social development and functioning arise for children and adolescents with HIV or AIDS. In addition to the physical implications of HIV/AIDS, there are various neurological and psychosocial implications as discussed below.

Physical Implications: HIV infection suppresses the immune system making persons testing positive for HIV vulnerable to opportunistic infections and illnesses which include, but are not limited to, certain forms of cancer, pneumonia, and fungal infections.

Therefore, the physical symptoms experienced by persons with HIV or AIDS will vary according to their physical condition and the impact of these illnesses. HIV-infected individuals who have not been diagnosed with an opportunistic infection may also experience generalized symptoms associated with immune suppression such as fatigue, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. To date, there is no cure for AIDS; however, pharmacological therapy (e.g., anti-retroviral medications, protease inhibitors) is used to prolong the onset of symptoms.

AIDS is also the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 25 to 44 in the United States. This is significant because it is believed that many of the young adults currently infected with HIV/AIDS may have contracted the HIV virus during adolescence. Thus, adolescent incidence figures may underestimate those who contract HIV but do not exhibit its symptoms until early adolescence.

Relative to gender, HIV is being contracted more rapidly by women, including young girls and adolescents, than by men. Critically, the large and increasing number of females with AIDS also increases the probability of children being born with HIV due to prenatal or perinatal transmission. It is estimated that 25 percent of infants born to HIV-infected mothers will themselves become infected. These children represent one of the fastest growing groups testing positive for the HIV virus.

Neurological Implications: An estimated 75% to 90% of children infected with HIV experience neuropsychological deficits resulting from developmental delays and/or cognitive disabilities. It is known that HIV infection can interfere with the normal brain development of children, resulting in neurological damage. This is especially true for children infected through perinatal transmission, whose central nervous systems are not yet fully developed at the time of infection. Among other cognitive dysfunctions, visual and auditory short-term memory loss, attention deficits, language disorders, spatial ability problems and expressive and receptive language difficulties may be observed in pediatric AIDS cases. Furthermore, moderate to severe mental retardation is associated with certain neurological disorders caused by HIV.

While HIV-related neurological impairment in children is commonly associated with cognitive delays, neurological impairment in adolescents is more commonly associated with cognitive deterioration. Neurological damage commonly results in the death of children with AIDS Anti-retroviral medications, as well as medications which help to prevent serious opportunistic infections, are thought to be partially responsible for extending the life of HIV-infected individuals. However, the quality of life for such individuals can be negatively affected by subtle, progressive and insidious problems directly resulting from HIV infection, including neurological impairment. HIV infection and AIDS not only impact the immune system, but also the central nervous system. In fact, it is hypothesized that HIV may directly infect the brain. As such, neurological impairment may result from either a direct attack on the central nervous system or through opportunistic infections that the body cannot stop due to HIV or AIDS.

While HIV-related neurological impairment in children is commonly associated with cognitive delays, neurological impairment in adolescents is more commonly associated with cognitive deterioration. Neurological damage commonly results in the death of children with AIDS.

Social Implications: Many of the symptoms reported by children with AIDS are similar to those experienced by children living with other chronic illnesses. Such symptoms include loss of abilities, physical impairments and the fear of impending death. Each of these may result in psychological reactions, including anxiety and depression. However, the social experiences of HIV-infected children differ from those of children with other chronic illnesses in several ways. First, many HIV-infected children, especially those who contract the virus perinatally, may have to cope with losses associated with AIDS-related illnesses and deaths within their families. Second, HIV-infected children are likely to experience additional risk factors: chronic poverty, housing problems, nutritional problems, poor access to medical and social support services, and exposure to violent or dangerous neighborhood environments. Third, and most important, is the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. AIDS-related stigma is the result of both fear and discrimination. Attempts have been made to deny rights to individuals infected with HIV/AIDS, including the right to employment and the right to a free and appropriate education. Although federal and legal mandates attempt to protect the constitutional rights of people with AIDS, stigmatization and discrimination persist.

What Can I Do as a Teacher?

Teachers have a responsibility to educate themselves about HIV/AIDS. Teachers must be knowledgeable about the modes of transmission and the modes of prevention if they are to educate their students about how to protect themselves. Also, knowledge about transmission and prevention is necessary to calm their own, students’, and parents’ concerns about children with HIV or AIDS who are being educated in a regular classroom setting. Teachers can educate themselves by taking courses offered by the American Red Cross (see the Resource section below for an 800 number) or other local community agencies.

It is a well-documented fact that children model adults’, including teachers’, behavior. Therefore, it is important that teachers model appropriate behavior that emphasizes problem solving and informed decision-making. It also is critical that teachers model behaviors that discourage discrimination and prejudice against persons with HIV/AIDS. This type of modeling by teachers not only impacts students in their own classrooms, but also the school buildings in which they work.

Teachers should be aware of the relationship between alcohol/drug use and HIV/AIDS. Alcohol and drug use are considered risk factors for the transmission of HIV because: (a) it is a known fact that alcohol and drug decrease inhibition, thus increasing the likelihood that individuals will engage in high risk behavior such as unprotected sex; and (b) intravenous drug use is known to be a high risk behavior that may result in HIV transmission. There are also many other negative consequences of alcohol/drug use not associated with HIV/AIDS. Therefore, it is important that teachers educate their students about risks associated with alcohol/drug use and attempt to promote abstinence from such substances.

Teachers should not be fearful if there is a student with HIV/AIDS in their classroom. There are no documented cases of AIDS transmission due to casual contact, biting, fighting, or contact sports.

It is important to respect students’ and parents’ right to privacy. Teachers should be aware of and abide by confidentiality/disclosure laws and policies within their school building and district.

Universal precautions should be maintained when coming into contact with blood or other bodily fluids that may contain blood. Universal precautions refer to the use of gloves and disinfectants when in contact with blood or blood-contaminated products.

In response to the growing number of school-age children and adolescents infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, schools have been forced to address important issues relative to this disease. The presence of students with HIV/AIDS in the schools has created a controversy for some relative to social, legal, and moral issues. In fact, there have been, and continue to be, debates about the appropriateness of HIV-infected students being educated within regular classrooms. The impact of HIV/AIDS on schools is evident also by debates that continue about what information should be included in HIV/AIDS curricula, and whether such curricula should exist at all.

As previously discussed, students with HIV or AIDS present various physical, neurological, and psychosocial problems. In order to intervene, school-based health (including mental health) services must be provided to children, adolescents, and their families. In fact, schools are continually recognizing the impact of health issues on academic functioning, and subsequently, the need for models of health care delivery to be incorporated into educational systems. Schools must work to create academic and social environments that address not only the needs of students with HIV or AIDS, but also the needs of those affected by the AIDS crisis – including peers, teachers, and administrators. Indeed, all members of the school community potentially are affected by this disease, and programs need to be designed to confront this reality. Such programs, ideally, should incorporate the goals of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. This type of approach can proactively address the needs of all school members through education and service provision.

Applied here, tertiary prevention focuses on the development of programs and interventions for those already infected and those directly impacted by HIV/AIDS. Secondary prevention targets those groups who are at-risk for contracting HIV, or those groups who will be affected socially, emotionally, financially, or otherwise due to their interactions with an HIV/AIDS infected individual. Finally, primary prevention involves community-wide.

Tumultuous Week for Trinidad

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By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Last week, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar fired controversial Sports Minister Anil Roberts from her cabinet, blaming him for seriously mismanaging a government-funded program that was designed to create employment for youths and give others who have dropped out of school and the workplace system a second chance in life.

Roberts, a former swimming coach turned parliamentary and political Rottweiler for the government, had angered cabinet colleagues and the population at large for a series of missteps during his four years at the ministry, including widespread corruption at the Life Sports program and, of all things, engaging in political sacrilege with his recent ministerial order to remove Trinidad and Tobago from the list of names on the national franchise cricket team participating in Caribbean Premier League Twenty20 competition.

The move was quickly, publicly and embarrassingly reversed by cabinet colleagues to resounding applause from the team and cricket supporters in general. But perhaps his biggest misstep might have been his continued denial that he was the person in an undated mobile phone video seen rolling a joint and talking about taking a pull or two in a hotel room somewhere in Port of Spain. He has continued to deny that the striking resemblance and familiar voice could have been him until this week.

Persad-Bissessar leads the largely Indo-supported People’s Partnership coalition government, which could lose under the weight of persistent and widespread corruption allegations and administrative ineptitude to the Afro-dominated People’s National Movement of Opposition Leader Keith Rowley when fresh polls are called by May of next year.

But while his firing and his resignation from Parliament continue to generate tons of news material for political analysts and the opposition, it appears to also signal to the population of 1.3 million that if the prime minister were to pay enough attention to allegations of widespread corruption in the country involving high officials, she might well run out of people to fill top positions on the island, cabinet included. After only four years in government, the prime minister has been forced to fire 20 high-level functionaries during the period, including 13 ministers. Roberts is just the latest. Some of the others include senators.

Political analyst Winford James told The Guardian newspaper just this week that the People’s National Movement will return to power after just a single five-year term in opposition because of the problems associated the People’s Partnership. He blamed “too many blunders and missteps” of government, noting that several cabinet shakeups would appear to the populace that the prime minister did not fully know what she was doing, even saying that infrastructural development was tilted more to Indo communities than others.

Obama Seeks '‘Long Term' Partnership with Africa

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that the federal government and private U.S. companies are investing $33 billion in Africa – $12 billion in new commitments – as part of an overall plan for his administration to strengthen its relation with the world’s second-largest continent.

Speaking to nearly 50 African heads of state and top officials at the U.S.-Africa Summit at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the nation’s capital, Obama said: “As president, I’ve made it clear that the United States is determined to be a partner in Africa’s success – a good partner, an equal partner, and a partner for the long term.

Although this is the largest gathering of African leaders ever convened by a U.S. president, China has had several such conferences and has a strong presence in Africa, building infrastructure and making loans, without attaching the United States’ concerns about democracy or human rights.

Offering an indirect contrast to China’s presence in Africa, President Obama said, “We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talents and their potential. We don’t simply want to extract minerals from the ground for our growth; we want to build genuine partnerships that create jobs and opportunity for all our peoples and that unleash the next era of African growth.  That’s the kind of partnership America offers.”

Obama announced five steps that he said will “take our trade with Africa to the next level.”

  • Work to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA);
  • Provide $7 billion in new financing to promote American exports to Africa as part of the “Doing Business in Africa” campaign;
  • Partner with Africa to expand electricity, a requirement for economies to flourish;
  • Help African countries trade with one another and
  • Do more to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs.

Most of the government funding will come from existent U.S. development banks and therefore will not require new spending approval from Congress.

The United States does most of its trading in Africa, primarily in the energy sector, with just three countries – South Africa, Nigeria and Angola.

“Our entire trade with all of Africa is still only about equal to our trade with Brazil – one country,” the president stated. “Of all the goods we export to the world, only about 1 percent goes to Sub-Saharan Africa.  So we’ve got a lot of work to do.  We have to do better – much better.  I want Africans buying more American products.  I want Americans buying more African products.”

Obama said, “I’m pleased that in conjunction with this forum, American companies are announcing major new deals in Africa.  Blackstone will invest in African energy projects.  Coca-Cola will partner with Africa to bring clean water to its communities.  GE will help build African infrastructure.  Marriott will build more hotels.  All told, American companies – many with our trade assistance – are announcing new deals in clean energy, aviation, banking, and construction worth more than $14 billion, spurring development across Africa and selling more goods stamped with that proud label, ‘Made in America.’”

After the president’s speech, on-stage interview with Takunda Chingonzo, a 21-year-old wireless executive in Zimbabwe, illustrated the complexity of relations in Africa.

Chingonzo said, “I’m working on my third startup –  it’s called Saisai.  We’re creating Zimbabwe’s first free Internet-access network, hence liberating the Internet.  So in our working, we came to a point in time where we needed to import a bit of technology from the United States, and so we were engaging in conversation with these U.S.-based businesses.  And the response that we got time and time again was that unfortunately we cannot do business with you because you are from Zimbabwe.”

He continued, “…And I understand that the sanctions that we have – that are imposed on entities in Zimbabwe, these are targeted sanctions, right?  But then we have come to a point in time where we as young Africans are failing to properly engage in business with U.S.-based entities because there hasn’t been that clarity.”

Obama said, “Well, obviously, the situation in Zimbabwe is somewhat unique.  The challenge for us in the United States has been how do we balance our desire to help the people of Zimbabwe with what has, frankly, been a repeated violation of basic democratic practices and human rights inside of Zimbabwe.

“And we think it is very important to send clear signals about how we expect elections to be conducted, governments to be conducted – because if we don’t, then all too often, with impunity, the people of those countries can suffer.  But you’re absolutely right that it also has to be balanced with making sure that whatever structures that we put in place with respect to sanctions don’t end up punishing the very people inside those countries.”

The U.S. has a diplomatic presence in Harare and, like the European Union, has been moving toward normalizing relations with Zimbabwe.

Obama said technology will forever alter how countries in Africa and elsewhere around the world are governed.

“The reason the Internet is so powerful is because it’s open,” Obama explained. “…And what facilitates that, and what has facilitated the incredible value that’s been built by companies like Google and Facebook and so many others, all the applications that you find on your smartphone, is that there are not restrictions, there are not barriers to entry for new companies who have a good idea to use this platform that is open to create value.  And it is very important I think that we maintain that.

“Now, I know that there’s a tension in some countries – their attitude is we don’t necessarily want all this information flowing because it can end up also being used as a tool for political organizing, it can be used as a tool to criticize the government, and so maybe we’d prefer a system that is more closed.  I think that is a self-defeating attitude.  Over the long term, because of technology, information, knowledge, transparency is inevitable.  And that’s true here in the United States; it’s true everywhere.”

South Sudan Faces Possible Famine

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, is dangerously close to famine as a result of food insecurity, weak governance and armed conflict, according to Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

She made the shocking revelation at a press briefing Monday during the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit. The historic gathering of heads of state and top government officials from 51 African nations, the largest of its kind to be hosted by a United States president.

Lindborg said that climate change and armed conflict can undermine the development of fragile nations and keep vulnerable communities in a state of perpetual crisis.

“When you have governments that are not accountable to their people, that are marginalized, that are weak, that are not providing services to their people, you have greater for potential conflict,” she said.

Following vicious civil war between the north and the south that spanned decades, the country split in 2011 and South Sudan was born. Peace in the south didn’t last long. Less than three years later, violence exploded in the young nation in December 2013, after South Sudanese President Salva Kiir claimed that Vice President Riek Machar planned to force him out of the government.

The United States has pledged $456 million since December working through the United Nations and experienced non-profit groups on the ground. The funds paid for food, medical care, fishing rods and other aid supplies.

Lindborg said that the challenge is making sure that aid workers have access to the people that need them the most. When either the government or the opposition keeps trucks from rolling or airplanes from flying, that assistance is delayed.

“It is the result of the political leadership, both the government and the opposition, choosing political gain over the welfare of their people,” said Lindborg.

Lindborg said that, in less severe conditions, aid workers stockpile food and supplies in hard to reach areas across the region, before the rainy season starts and roads become too treacherous to travel.

“We were not able to do that this year, because of the fighting and the lack of access,” said Lindborg. “The most urgent thing is for the leadership of [South Sudanese] President Kiir and the opposition to choose peace and to use the negotiation process to find a way forward that puts that nation back on a pathway of peace and development that they fought very hard for and the South Sudanese people deserve for that mission to be realized.”

Like South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR) internal fighting and extreme weather have compounded the need for international humanitarian aid.

According to a July 2014 report by Amnesty International, “members of the mostly Christian Anti-Balaka and mainly Muslim Séléka” have committed serious human rights violations and abuses in CAR.

“Since December 2013, deliberate large-scale killings of civilians, including women and children, have continued unabated, sometimes followed by mutilation, dismembering and burning of the bodies. Acts of cannibalism have also been reported,” stated the report. “Other crimes taking place in the country include torture, enforced disappearances, recruitment and use of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence, looting, demolition and burning of houses, villages and places of worship, such as mosques and churches, as well as the forced displacement of populations.”

Lindborg said that there is a critical need for truly sustained peace and reconciliation in Central Africa, where nearly half the country is in need of critical assistance and humanitarian aid. The U.S. pledged $118 million to CAR and the surrounding region for security and community-based peace building and reconciliation groups.

Lindborg praised government officials in Sierra Leone for making incredible efforts to move away from civil war and the violence that ripped that country apart from 1991-2002.

“They have slowly put the country on the pathway to development,” said Lindborg she said that Sierra Leone’s leaders focused on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the media and on decreasing the number of political prisoners held in the country.

“It’s really been an effort in providing inclusive, effective and legitimate governance that has been key,” explained Lindborg. “It provides a vision and a template that is inspiring for all of us.”

During the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit, USAID and The Rockefeller Foundation committed $100 million to the Global Resilience Partnership, “new model for solving the complex and interrelated challenges of the 21st century such as persistent and often extreme poverty, food insecurity, and climate shocks,” in Africa and Asia, according to a press release on the initiative.

The project includes a “Resilience Challenge,” aimed at bringing ground-breaking and creative solutions to bear on problems facing Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and South and Southeast Asia.

“Disasters and shocks pose an unparalleled threat to the world’s most vulnerable communities and hamstring the global humanitarian response,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah in the press release. “This new bold partnership will help the global community pivot from being reactive in the wake of disaster to driving evidence-based investments that enable cities, communities, and households to better manage and adapt to inevitable shocks.

Kerry and Biden Urge African Leaders to be More Open

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(NNPA) WASHINGTON – Calling this an “extraordinary moment of opportunity,” Secretary of State John Kerry gently urged African leaders hosted by the White House to eradicate political corruption, limit their time in office to two terms, be more accepting of dissent and adopt universally accepted values that advance the lives and freedoms of its citizens.

Kicking off the 3-day US-Africa Summit that began Monday, Kerry said: “Empowered civil society is the foundation of every successful democracy here in the United States, in Africa, and around the world, because in the end, our most enduring relationships, most consequential relationships are not with one particular government at one moment in time. It’s not with those who are in power for the short run.”

He explained, “The legacy is really shaped by the people of a country and the people of a continent, the people of Africa who stand on principle for the long haul and who are increasingly connected to the world around them and who, therefore, aspire to greater and greater set of opportunities.”

Vice President Joe Biden, also speaking on the opening day of the summit, suggested that leaders make a stronger effort to root out political corruption. “Corruption is not unique to Africa, but it’s a cancer in Africa as well as around the world,” Biden stated.  “Widespread corruption is an affront to the dignity of its people and a direct threat to each of your nation’s stability.”

It was doubtful that Kerry’s and Biden’s speeches will change the political landscape in Africa. The presidents of Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Rwanda have been in office for more than three decades and don’t appear ready to step down.  Many African leaders have millions stashed away in foreign accounts.

Kerry’s carefully crafted speech took what many claim as fundamental American values and placed them within a global context, perhaps in an effort to make them more acceptable.

“Strong civil society and respect for democracy, the rule of law, and human rights – these are not just American values. They’re universal values. They’re universal aspirations. And anyone who reads history and knows history understands that.”

Kerry continued, “Why does America care whether countries around the world, including African states, enforce the rule of law, reform their economies, and embrace pluralism? Very simple. We care because we believe that when people can trust their government and rely on its accountability and transparency on justice, that society flourishes and is more stable than others. We believe that opportunity and prosperity are powerful antidotes to the violent urges of extremism and division. And we know that the gravest threats to the security of nations almost invariably come from countries where people and their governments are at odds, where they are divided.”

Citizens are making their voices heard in Africa, Kerry said. He said opinion polls in Africa show  “large majorities of Africans support free, accessible, and fair elections, and limiting their presidents to two terms in office. Those are the aspirations that drove Wangari Maathai to launch the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and transform the way that Africans relate to the environment. And those are the aspirations that drove Frank Mugisha and others to risk their lives for LGBT rights and equality and non-discrimination in Uganda.”

The secretary of state noted that the U.S. did not have an easy time establishing a democracy, engaging in a Civil War and repairing defects in the Constitution. It is a struggle that continues to this day, Kerry acknowledged.

“Slavery was written into our Constitution before it was written out of our Constitution,” he said in a question-and-answer session following his speech. “And we all know what a battle we had in this country in order to do that, and we are still battling to make sure that our Constitution is, in fact, upheld and applied in the law in terms of voting rights and the way districts are divided. This is not unique to one continent or one place. It’s part of politics, part of human nature, and that is the greatest struggle of all. We’re still working to perfect, everybody is.”

And so is Africa, according to Kerry.

“…interestingly, most African countries have very strong constitutions. And those strong constitutions, if you read them and analyze them, actually do provide very clear separation of power, rule of law, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech,” Kerry said, replying to one question. “Even the principles of nondiscrimination are contained within most of the constitutions in Africa.

“So Africa has done pretty well in drafting the constitution and putting together the basic concepts. Where there has been a challenge, obviously, is in making sure that it is followed, and that requires the building of capacity. Doesn’t happen overnight, didn’t happen here overnight.”

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