By Chito Chavez
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said on Wednesday it is a privilege for her to be the country’s lone representative to the four-day Fast-Track Cities 2019 Conference at the Barbican Centre in London, England.
Belmonte was among the nine city and municipal officials who served as panelists during the “High-Level Panel on Health Inequalities,” which signaled the opening of the conference.
As one of the panelists at the High-Level Discussions on Health Inequalities, Belmonte said issues on how to ensure that “we are not leaving anyone behind in providing services to our people, particularly the discriminated and stigmatized”.
Belmonte joined Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis, Kingston Deputy Mayor Winston Ennis, Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Simone Kukenheim, Lisbon Mayor Fernando Medina, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts, Kiev First Deputy Mayor Mykola Povoroznyk and Odessa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov as panelists.
Belmonte also earned the distinction of being the only Asian mayor selected to give a talk on Drug Policy Reform at the High-Level session.
Organized by the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC), in collaboration with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other partners, Fast-Track Cities 2019 is the first international gathering of more than 300 cities that are accelerating their responses to HIV, tuberculosis, and viral hepatitis.
The conference aims to highlight successes achieved across the Fast-Track Cities network, address cross-cutting challenges faced by local stakeholders, and share best practices in accelerating urban AIDS responses.
”I’m looking forward to this great opportunity to learn from the institutions all over the world in helping address the issue of HIV and to share our insights with the international community,” said Belmonte.
As vice-mayor then and presiding officer of the Quezon City Council, Belmonte ushered the passage of an ordinance on age-appropriate HIV education, which she believes is the best way to remove the stigma of HIV/ AIDS victims.
Belmonte also initiated a massive education and awareness campaign, especially among high school students, about the dangers of HIV and how to prevent it.