27 June 2001, New York


Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Twenty years ago the first news broke about this disease, HIV-AIDS, and today after two decades have passed, we as member states of the United Nations, are meeting here to decide what measures can alleviate the terrible personal and community drama which has arisen during this period.

When we received the call of the Secretary General to hold a special session, we asked ourselves what we could contribute and also what we could share among all the experience, which has so far built up in this field.

During these years, in Andorra we have had to learn to live with this disease, to aid sufferers and to avoid it spreading among the population.

Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, Andorra wishes to express its solidarity in the dramatic situation suffered by many countries and its undertaking to all sufferers that their right to a life with dignity should be respected in all places.

After this meeting, the taboos surrounding the illness which make the life of many of those affected a tragedy must disappear. They all have the right to health care and everyone has the right to be respected as a person wherever he or she carries out his or her activities.

We are fully convinced that prevention is the best way of fighting against the spread of the disease and we share the opinion of UNAIDS - to which we take this opportunity of expressing our thanks for the enormous effort it is making in its daily work and has made in preparing this session - when it stresses, among other things, that efforts must be concentrated on young people.

We would also add that encouraging community structures in which the family and the school have a basic role is one of the most efficient ways of bringing the challenges caused by the existence of HIV-AIDS clearly and precisely to the notice of the younger public.

For our part, in Andorra we have attacked the subject of HIV-AIDS from various angles but insisting above all on the question of prevention and targeting first and foremost the adolescent and young population. Among the more notable actions we have:

* Every year for World AIDS Day specific information is published and aimed at young people, and information campaigns are made in leisure centres.

* As teachers are considered to be the main health agents in schools, various training activities aimed at this group have been carried so that they can pass on true and useful information to their students.

* On World AIDS Day concerts and informative talks have been given for the public at large and brochures have been issued to the public through the surgeries of primary health care professionals.

* In 1999 the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports together with the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Caixa-Banc Foundation organized the AIDS AND YOUTH FORUM, which every year includes activities carried out by secondary school students and these culminate in days of debate.

* Since 1993 Andorra has a youth information and care service where HIV tests are carried out freely and anonymously and all necessary information is given out whether for prevention or for health and social care.
* In the days of preparation leading up to World AIDS Day in 2000 an action targeting women was carried out: informing women in their work place.

One point, which particularly deserves our attention is the difficulty faced by many women and girls in many areas of the planet in resisting the epidemic.

We are convinced that after this meeting there will be a series of specific policies which will take into account the needs of the female population which is gravely affected by the disease and needs a set of measures destined to be protected effectively.

There is a basic element related to all these points: access to medication.

In recent months we have seen how pharmaceutical companies have begun important changes in their sales policies. Here we would like to encourage them to continue in this line and find a way of facilitating the obtaining of medicines by those sections of the population, which have most difficulty in having them.

In Andorra, anyone affected has the right to receive all the necessary health care.

Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Secondly, we wish to add our voice to all the other speakers who have demanded that Africa be enabled to escape from the situation in which the spread of HIV-AIDS has affected a large part of its population. The fact that 36 million people are carriers of the virus worldwide and that 75% of these are to be found in Africa is the clearest possible demonstration of the magnitude of the situation in that continent.

We all know that the virus has destroyed the structure of society in many areas, that schools lose their teachers, that young people have to stay at home to look after the ill, that the number of orphans continues to rise. Here words can do no more, what is needed is clear, precise action, a compromise including the firm will of every country to provide all assistance needed to its own ill people and to avoid the spread, with the support of the international community which must understand that it is not only a health crisis but a global one which affects any plan for social and economic development which may be undertaken.

We know that to achieve results much effort will be needed and that the first step is a firm commitment for financial help. In the declaration, which we will adopt at the end of the session, we have accepted the figure of 7 to 10 billion US dollars as the sum needed to combat the illness and we have stressed the need for joint participation by governments and private bodies. No doubt, this is one of the projects in which partnership is essential because the whole of society must feel connected to the situation. With this in mind, I wish to announce that my government has the intention to contribute 100,000 dollars to the fund and that it hopes that all countries will respond generously.

Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the beginning of my speech, I mentioned the fact of a better understanding from this situation and I would now like to note briefly what we have learned since the appearance of HIV-AIDS.

No doubt, we are once again aware of our vulnerability as human beings. Many have compared the illness to the plague of the European Middle Ages. Nor can we ignore the similarity in reactions which in certain times and places were full of obscurantism and superstition.

But today we know that with good preventive information, care and support for the ill, we can achieve a certain control of the illness, while awaiting the vaccine, which should interrupt its spread.
We also know the enormous strength of the solidarity of all those groups of persons and all manner of organizations which have fought, are fighting and will continue to fight so that HIV-AIDS may not become a factor of discrimination forcing the ill to hide their condition.

Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, no further excuses can mask the reality: the virus has become part of our daily life and we have all become a little wiser when speaking of it.

Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion I would like to stress that the courage shown by thousands of ill people should be the best lesson to enable us to face a future full of hope for all those affected.

Thank you.