Statements and Webcast
Secretary-General of the United Nations
H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon
8 June 2011
- Statement: English (Check against delivery)
United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON recalled that 30 years ago, AIDS was terrifying, deadly and spreading fast. “Today, we have a chance to end this epidemic once and for all,” he declared, adding that the story of how that had come to be had been written by many in the Assembly Hall. In the 1980s, there was a terrible fear of a new plague. Fellow human beings had suffered not only from sickness, but discrimination or, worse, vilification. Looking back, there was much that could have been done differently.
Looking ahead, however, there were proud accomplishments that the Assembly could build upon, he said, as the campaign against AIDS had always been much more than a battle against disease. It was a cry for human rights, a call for gender equality and a fight to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. Indeed, it was a demand for the equal treatment of all people.
Citing progress, he said that since 2001, new infections had dropped by 20 per cent, and since 2006, when leaders had gathered in the Assembly and pledged that every person would receive services, care and support to cope with the disease, AIDS-related deaths had fallen by 20 per cent. Today, HIV was on a steep decline in some of the most-affected countries — Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe among them — which had cut infection rates by one-quarter in the last 30 years.
“Today, the challenge has changed,” he said. “Today, we gather to end AIDS.” The goal was to end AIDS within the decade: zero new infections, zero stigma and zero AIDS-related deaths. “We must be bold,” he said, which meant facing sensitive issues, including men who have sex with men, drug users and the sex trade.
Emphasizing that he had made the campaign against AIDS a personal priority, he recalled that former Secretary-General Kofi Annan had asked pharmaceutical companies for help in getting AIDS medicine to all who needed it. Their agreement had led to the establishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a revolution that had saved lives around the world. It had been a model, he said, he had applied to the current campaign to reduce child and maternal mortality, and one that would bring the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health to life.
“Today’s historic meeting is a call to action”, he declared, underlining that all partners must come together in solidarity as never before. Costs must be lowered and better programmes delivered. Leaders must commit to accountability and ensure that HIV responses promoted the health, human rights, security and dignity of women and girls. Finally, “we must trigger a prevention revolution”, he said, by harnessing the power of youth and communications technology. With those steps, AIDS could be stopped. “We can end the fear,” he said. We can get to an AIDS-free world”.