|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General, at General Assembly Meeting on HIV/AIDS, Urges Courage,
Integrity in Protecting Vulnerable against Stigma
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly on implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declarations on HIV/AIDS, in New York on 10 June:
Thank you for the opportunity to address this important session on progress in our global struggle against AIDS. I thank Mr. Michel Sidibé for his excellent leadership at the helm of UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS]. I applaud the engagement of Governments. And I especially commend all the representatives from civil society who have done so much to advance this cause.
Today’s review takes place almost halfway to the target date set by the 2011 Political Declaration. We have made important progress to turn the tide on the HIV epidemic. We are paving the way to achieve an AIDS-free generation.
Overall, we will have reached the Millennium Development Goal to halt and reverse the spread of AIDS by 2015. But we must do more for individual countries and communities — and we need additional funding to fully realize our vision. In more than 56 States, we have stabilized the epidemic and reversed the rate of new infections. Globally, new HIV infections have declined by one fifth since 2001. Treatment now reaches more than half of all people who need it in low- and middle-income countries.
Now we have to expand antiretroviral therapy. This is a human rights imperative and a public health necessity. Treatment prevents sickness, saves lives and eases the economic hardship that can cripple whole communities. We have brought the cost of many medicines down dramatically. We must continue to push hard for greater results.
Women and girls are still at unacceptably high risk of HIV. Every minute a young woman is infected. Children’s access to HIV treatment remains particularly low. Fewer than one third of children living with HIV receive the treatment they need.
I continue to be disturbed by widespread stigma, discrimination, gender-based violence and punitive laws against people living with HIV, as well as those at high risk of infection. This problem cannot be solved with more money. We all have to step up with courage and integrity to protect vulnerable members of our human family. Some 45 countries and territories continue to deny entry, stay and residence to people living with HIV. I call on them to repeal those discriminatory laws.
There is not enough funding for programmes to help key populations, including sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs. I urge more resources for these lifesaving initiatives.
I call for efforts across society to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that surround HIV. Many Governments and community leaders still have laws and policies that criminalize key populations and force them underground. This is discriminatory and counterproductive. It drives people away from information, testing, treatment, care and support services. I have consistently said that human rights are universal and must be universally respected.
This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the drafting of the Denver Principles which became the Bill of Rights for people living with HIV, and led to the International Patient’s Bill of Rights. We should remember the cry of the first activists against AIDS who said: “Nothing for us without us.” People affected by HIV must be engaged and empowered on decisions that affect them.
The General Assembly’s 2011 Political Declaration set out a new framework of shared responsibility and global solidarity. Since then, we have moved closer to our goal of no new HIV infections, no discrimination and no AIDS-related deaths.
We must move from treating millions with disease to giving billions the opportunity to live healthy lives. The HIV response can help to build stronger, integrated health-care systems that respond to broad needs across society.
As the world shapes a post-2015 development agenda, we can draw important lessons from the global AIDS response. We can take inspiration from the activists, health workers, fundraisers, diplomats and ministers — the General Assembly and all of you.
Now let us rise to the many serious challenges that remain to get the job done.
UNAIDS asked a number of people living with HIV for their message to the world. One young mother said, “If you take care of yourself today, you will avoid having to take care of things tomorrow.”
Let us press forward now so that we can realize an AIDS-free world.
* *** *
For information media • not an official record