10 June 2011
Deputy Secretary-General

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General, at Side Event, Calls ‘Countdown to Zero’ Strategy


Chance to End New HIV Infections among Children, Keep Mothers Alive


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at the General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS side event: “The Missing Face of Children and AIDS — Progress on 10 Years of Commitments”, in New York on 9 June:

Thank you all for coming here this evening.

As this week’s important events on AIDS have unfolded, I have felt a surging confidence that the international community is coming together as never before to address the disease.  Speaker after speaker agrees: now is the time to end the transmission of HIV from mothers to babies.  Very tangible momentum is building to achieve this critical target.

But we cannot let the success of this week’s events blind us to the seriousness of the challenges.  This past March, I was with Michel Sidibé [Executive Director of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)] in Kenya when the Secretary-General launched a report aimed at energizing all players ahead of this week’s meetings.  We were joined on that occasion by Rebecca Awiti, a community activist.  She lives with HIV, but thanks to treatment, her triplets are free of the virus.

Now she is helping other mothers protect their babies.  To the other young people affected by the HIV epidemic who are with us today, and indeed to everyone in this room, I say this: We can repeat this success story many times over with an integrated approach to health.

“Countdown to Zero” is our new global plan to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive.  It is an opportunity for major progress.  And it comes at the right moment, when we have successfully mobilized many partners behind the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.

The Strategy and the Plan both take a coordinated, integrated approach — and they do so because it works.  Reproductive health care offers opportunities to reach a woman throughout her life.  It can help protect her from getting HIV in the first place, and if she does have the virus, it can help her protect her babies.

But to succeed in preventing the spread of HIV, we need strong health systems.  We need to reach young people with sexual and reproductive health care.  We need development partners to support country programmes.

Mothers are the pillars.  Children are the future.  When either suffers, families suffer.  Princess Nuru, who joins us today, can tell you more about that.  Princess is a young leader who is making a difference in the lives of her fellow youth.

Princess, I deeply admire your efforts and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Many young people are fortunate to have family members — parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents — who love and care for them.  They are among a generation of people who are national treasures in their countries.  But these treasures need protection.  These families need help.  These communities need support.

The Countdown to Zero Plan and the Global Strategy may be focused on women’s and children’s health, but they will achieve much more.  By helping address AIDS in mothers and children, they will bring us closer to all of our development goals.

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For information media • not an official record