Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks at observance of World AIDS Day

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, New York (USA), 30 November 2007

Thank you all for being here. Let me say a special thanks to Saint Bartholomew’s Church for welcoming us again this year, as well as all the organizers who have helped bring us together. And let me thank all the performers, who are giving so generously of their time and talent.

By coming out to mark World AIDS Day, you are all giving life to the theme of this year’s observance -- leadership. Without leadership, we will never get ahead of the epidemic. For AIDS is a disease unlike any other.

AIDS is a social issue, a human rights issue, an economic issue. It targets young adults just as they should be contributing to economic development, intellectual growth and bringing up children.

It is taking a disproportionate toll on women. It has made millions of children orphans. It does to society what HIV does to the human body -- reduces resilience and weakens capacity, hampers development and threatens stability.

This does not need to happen. We have the means to prevent young adults from becoming infected. We have the means to treat those who are infected. We have the means to provide care and support.

We have made tangible and remarkable progress on all these fronts. But we must do more. Although new data shows that global HIV prevalence has levelled off, the numbers are still staggering, and AIDS remains among the leading causes of death globally.

It is our crucial mission to ensure that everyone can access HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. This includes all people -- wherever they live, whatever they do.

Overcoming stigma remains one of our biggest challenges. It is still the single biggest barrier to public action on AIDS. It is one of the reasons why the epidemic continues to wreak its devastation around the world.

Today, I call for renewed leadership in eradicating stigma associated with HIV. I applaud the brave individuals who live openly with HIV, who advocate tirelessly for the rights of the HIV-positive, who educate others about AIDS.

One of my most moving experiences as Secretary-General has been my meetings with the UN’s own group of HIV-positive staff, UN Plus. They are wonderfully courageous and motivated people. I am determined to make the UN a model workplace in embracing them, and all our staff living with HIV.

We all need to understand HIV and AIDS better. I have just come from an orientation session on HIV in the UN workplace, which I convened for all my senior managers. These sessions are now mandatory for all UN employees both at Headquarters and in the field. They help us know the facts about transmission, prevention, stigma and discrimination, care and treatment.

Today, I call for leadership among all Governments in fully understanding the epidemic -- so that resources go where they are most needed, and so that we keep investing in tools for prevention and treatment, including vaccines and microbicides.

And I call for leadership at all levels to scale up towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010 -- as pledged by all Governments last year. We have only two years left until that target date. We need to show leadership now.

As Secretary-General, I am determined to lead the United Nations family in ensuring that we prioritize action on HIV/AIDS, and in encouraging Member States to keep the issue high on national and international agendas.

Whatever our role in life, wherever we may live, in some way or another, we all live with HIV. We are all affected by it. We all need to take responsibility for the response.

On this World AIDS Day, let us show the leadership it takes to live up to our responsibility.