Statements and Webcast
H.E. Mr. Michel Sidibé, Executive Director
8 June 2011
- Statement: English (Check against delivery)
MICHEL SIDIBÉ, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), spoke about the collective, historic achievements of the world. Thirty years ago the disease was called the gay plague and slime disease. People were afraid of each other and there was no hope. “This image should not disappear. It is part of our history,” he said, adding that the AIDS movement was the story of a people breaking the conspiracy of silence, demanding equity and dignity, confronting societies’ wrongs, seizing their rights, and making a passionate call for social justice. Since then, a compact had been made between the global North and the South, which had produced lifesaving results.
In 2001, when negotiating the outcome document, it was said that the world could not afford to treat people living with HIV in the developing world, he said. But, today, more than 6.6 million people were being treated in low- and middle- income countries. It was said then that prevention strategies would never work and Senegal, Uganda and Thailand were the only success stories, then. But, today, 56 countries, including 36 in Africa, had been able to stabilize the epidemic and reduce the number of infections significantly. Infections had reduced by 35 per cent in South Africa and by more than half in India. In China, the HIV mortality rate had fallen by 64 per cent. Many other countries had reached universal access to treatment.
The Global Fund must be able to continue to deliver, he said. He lauded the efforts of the United States Emergency Fund to help produce good results. Under Gabon’s leadership, the Security Council yesterday adopted historic resolution 1983, which recognized the deadly link between HIV and violence against women in conflict and post-conflict situations. It showed that AIDS remained a critical challenge for the era. Now was not the time to be complacent. AIDS was a “metaphor for inequality,” he said, noting that 1.8 million people were dying from it every year in developing countries. Nine million people were still waiting for treatment. In the North, a new HIV-free generation was emerging. But, millions of babies were still born with HIV/AIDS in the South.
“We are at a defining moment. It is time to agree on a transformational agenda to end this epidemic,” he said. That agenda must achieve zero HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths and it must become a reality. To do that, it was necessary to revolutionize HIV prevention and mobilize young people as agents of change; scale up universal access to treatment; break the tragedy of high cost treatments; promote innovation and technology transfer; and promote country ownership through new values and shared responsibility. It was necessary to stop violence against women and girls. Vulnerable populations like migrants, sex workers, and men who had sex with men must not face discrimination and must have access to life-saving services.
“We will realize our vision of zero if we take AIDS out of isolation,” he said. He called for strengthening health systems and investment. “It is not a question of paying now or paying later, either we pay now or we pay forever,” he said, adding that if investment in research and development could be sustained “we will have in five years time simple and inexpensive diagnostics and medication available to everyone everywhere,” as well as a vaccine that would eradicate the virus. “Getting to zero is not an aspirational goal or a magic number; it must be our collective plan.”