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New AIDS envoy appointed

Elizabeth Mataka, the executive director of the Zambia National AIDS Network (ZNAN) and the vice-chair of the board for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, was recently appointed to the position of Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa by Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN). Mataka is a native of Botswana and has been involved with HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care for the past 16 years. She succeeds Stephen Lewis, who left the post after five years when previous Secretary General Kofi Annan retired at the end of 2006.

During his time as Special envoy Lewis spoke passionately about the devastation that HIV/AIDS is causing in Africa and he became one of the most outspoken and well-known advocates for the rights of women on the continent. The appointment of Mataka fulfills Lewis's request that his replacement be an African woman. She is the first African to hold the position of Special Envoy at the UN and, as she assumes the post, the situation facing African women has never been more dire. As HIV continues to spread in sub-Saharan Africa, women are increasingly becoming infected. It is estimated that 4.6% of young women in sub-Saharan Africa are currently living with HIV, compared to 1.7% of young men.