Why VP didn't make speech By Erick Kabendera, Mexico City THE CITIZEN The International Aids Society said the Tanzania government was responsible for the failure of Vice-President Ali Mohamed Shein to address the opening session of the 17th International Aids Conference. The Dr Shein was expected to present a paper on the role of the political leadership in Africa in response to the HIV/Aids pandemic on behalf of President Jakaya Kikwete when the conference opened here. According to the communication manager of the International Aids Society, Ms Karen Bennette, organizers of the conference said President Jakaya Kikwete was invited to address the opening ceremony. However, she said, State House could not confirm his attendance on time. "We received no response from his (the president's) office, and had no choice but to include another speaker," said Ms Bennett. When the organizers found out that vice president Shain was attending, Ms Bennett said, it was not possible to include him in the programme since it was too late. The vice president's biography was on the list of VIP speakers at the opening ceremony of the conference on Monday but he was not included in the conference programme. Among prominent speakers at the ceremony were the Mexican President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa and the United Nations director general Ban Ki-moon, who was attending the first International Aids Conference since being appointed in 2006. Other leaders participating in the opening session included Prime Minister Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts and Nevis; former Botswana President Festus Mogae, Spain's first vice president Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega; Mexico's secretary of Health Jos ngel Cordova Villalobos; UNAids executive director Peter Piot and World Health Organization director-general Margaret Chan. No member of the Tanzania delegation was available to comment on the issue. However, some delegates who were seen on Sunday registering for the conference had hoped that the vice president would have addressed the opening ceremony. It is still unknown if the vice president, who was accompanied by the ministers of Health and Social Welfare, Prof David Mwakyusa; Education and Vocational Training, Prof Jumanne Maghembe; Health (Zanzibar) Sultan Mugheiry and deputy minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi and some Members of Parliament, attended the opening ceremony. However, contradicting reports from various sources here said Dr Shein arrived in Mexico on Wednesday, three days before the opening ceremony last Sunday. Some speakers at the conference and delegates from different countries were heard inquiring at the information centre whether vice president Shein was among VIPs who would have addressed the conference. Dr Shein was expected to leave Mexico today for Havana, Cuba, for a five-day tour to strengthen bilateral relations between that country and Tanzania. The visit is at the invitation of the Cuban government. Over 5,000 abstracts, including 103 late breaker abstracts, are expected to be presented at the week-long conference. The abstracts were selected from more than 10,600 submissions. Addressing the opening session of the conference, Mr Ki-moon said for the first time fewer people were being infected by HIV and fewer dying. Applauding the recent UNAids 2008 Report, he said it shows encouraging progress in preventing HIV in a number of most vulnerable countries. Mr Ki-moon attributed the gains to changes in sexual behavior, particularly among young people, and better access to anti-retroviral drugs. The theme of the conference is Universal Access Now".