Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 02 December 2009
Honourable Mr. Misa Telefoni, [Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa], Dr. Paul De Lay, [Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS], Ms. Maire Bopp Dupont, [Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation], Mr. Prasada Rao, [Regional Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team, Asia and the Pacific],
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you for the launch of the report of the Commission on AIDS in the Pacific. I thank the Chair and members of the Commission for their excellent work, as well as UNAIDS and all others involved in making this report possible.
Responses to AIDS in the Pacific must be based on an understanding of the region's peoples, cultures, beliefs and practices. This report takes just such an approach.
It weaves together the story of HIV in 22 geographically and culturally diverse countries. We now have a much more complete picture and clear recommendations for action.
The report gives voice to people living with HIV. I applaud the Commission for this; their participation is essential for making HIV policies and implementing programmes.
The report also argues that AIDS must be integrated within the broader development agenda. Next September's MDG summit here at UN Headquarters is an opportunity to highlight this formula, and help the Pacific region to address its development deficits and vulnerabilities such as climate change and disasters.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In countries with large populations, even several million HIV infections can seem like drops in a bucket. But where populations are small, as in the island nations of the Pacific, infections in the hundreds or thousands can translate into high prevalence rates – with devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities, economies and even security.
The Commission has put forward 26 recommendations. I would like to focus on five thematic areas within these recommendations which I consider priorities.
First, countries must provide and enforce legislative protection for people living with HIV and their families. There can be no effective response to AIDS as long as some parts of the population are marginalized and denied basic health and human rights. This includes people living with HIV, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and injecting drug users.
Second, governments and donors must engage with civil society in decision-making. Community organizations should receive help in building up their capacity.
Third, Pacific countries must move from planning to implementation. Action is especially important in Papua New Guinea, which is the overwhelming locus of the Pacific epidemic, with 99 per cent of reported cases in 2008.
Fourth, countries must ensure that their HIV policies and programmes empower women. Gender inequalities and gender-based violence are major drivers of the epidemic in the Pacific.
Finally, prevention activities aimed at high-risk behaviours need greater funding. Programmes must address behaviours and not population groups, to avoid stigma and discrimination. They must be in the language of the people most affected. And they must integrate HIV with other programmes designed to change behaviours, including those related to drug and alcohol use, sexual and reproductive health, and gender-based violence.
I fully support the approach outlined by the Commission. By implementing these recommendations, Pacific countries can prevent increases in infections and deaths, avoid economic losses and improve the lives of people at risk.
Already, many innovative and effective approaches are being implemented. The Pacific Islands Forum is playing a major role in the response.
I look to Governments in the Pacific to show the leadership required to invest more substantially in the response to AIDS. I also look to them to move with greater determination to stamp out stigma and discrimination.
I look to civil society, the vulnerable communities and people living with HIV to involve themselves in all aspects of national and regional programmes.
I look to the donor community to continue providing financial and technical support. I commend the Global Fund, the Asian Development Bank and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand for supporting many Pacific countries, which has helped them to keep HIV infection at a manageable level.
The United Nations family, for its part, will continue to help advance the implementation of the Report's recommendations.
As you all know, there have been important gains in the global response. Significantly more people are receiving treatment. The number of deaths caused by AIDS has continued to decline. Fewer people are being infected by HIV.
This remarkable progress shows what we can achieve. There has been far too much death, discrimination and distress. Let us chart a better course. I look forward to working with you in that endeavour. And I commend highly the leadership and commitment of the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Mr. Michel Sidibe, for his leadership.
Thank you very much for your support.