Press Release




                                                            26 February 2001 



Following is the text of remarks, made at Headquarters today, by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the open-ended informal consultation of the President of the General Assembly on the preparations for the special session of the Assembly on HIV/AIDS:

I am very pleased to join this consultation on the special session on HIV/AIDS, because I believe the importance of this subject can hardly be overstated.

The figures in the Secretary-General's report, which Dr. Piot will present to you in more detail, are frightening indeed.  By the end of last year, nearly

22 million people had died from this disease, whose name we heard for the first time only two decades ago.  And over 36 million more -- men, women and children -- are already infected.  

More people died of AIDS in 2000 than in any previous year.  And unless we act more decisively and effectively than we have yet been able to, these grim figures will continue to multiply.  Not for nothing does the report before you describe HIV/AIDS as the most formidable development challenge of our time.

Rightly, world leaders pledged last year, at the Millennium Summit, to halt and begin to reverse the spread of the disease by the year 2015.  But that pledge will be empty words unless there is resolute and simultaneous action in every continent, to tackle the problem at many different points.

Recent public discussion has focussed -- again, rightly -- on the need to bring treatment within the reach of the millions in developing countries, above all in Africa, who without it face a lingering death in pain and humiliation.

The price and availability of drugs are crucial aspects of this task, but not the only ones.  It brings us face to face with another obstacle to care, at least as great:  the desperate inadequacy of public health systems in many poor countries -- one of the harshest and most unjust forms that poverty takes.

But the difficulty and complexity of the task do not make it any less urgent.  Quite the contrary.

Nor must concern for the plight of those already infected distract us from the other great challenge -- the challenge of denying the disease new victims.  

We must do everything in our power to protect people -- especially young people.

We must make more determined efforts to prevent the cruellest infections of all -- those from mother to unborn or new-born child.

Above all, we must save future generations from enduring the martyrdom to which the present one is being subjected.

That can only be done by action across a very broad front -- from ending the culture of shame and silence that still surrounds the disease in too many societies, to intensifying and accelerating the search for an effective vaccine.

All of these tasks require the active involvement of whole societies, not just officials or medical professionals.

And all of them require money.  A much greater financial effort is required, to which all must contribute according to their ability.

An effort on this scale cannot be centrally administered.  But we do need an agreed set of priorities and a clear distribution of roles. 

Increasingly, it is clear that only the United Nations system can provide this.  It is more than timely, therefore, Mr. President, that the General Assembly should meet in special session to mobilize the international community for a focused and coordinated effort.  

It is vital that the special session be properly prepared.  And that puts a heavy responsibility on all of us to make this consultation a success.

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