ARGENTINA

26th Special Session of the General Assembly on
HIV/AIDS

Statement

by

the Head of the Argentine Delegation to the
Special Session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS

Dr. Arnoldo Victor Castillo,
National Secretary for Health Care,
Ministry of Health of Argentina

New York, June 27, 2001



Mr. President,
The Argentine Republic participates in this important session in the hope that the political will here expressed and the commitments made will improve the quality of the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS all over the world.
Argentina, like the majority of Latin American countries, has seen the epidemic grow speedily and though it has not reached the magnitude seen in other regions, we note with preoccupation and fear that, should we not adopt urgent measures, in a few years the epidemic might reach prevalence levels as high as those of the most affected countries and the development indicators will deteriorate.

This is why, since December 1999 when President Fernando de la Rua took office, the Government of Argentina has set the fight against AIDS as one of its priorities.

We deem indispensable that the magnitude of the epidemic be made widely known so that not only policy makers but the whole society are aware of it. We are convinced that the epidemic will only be controlled if society as a whole -the government and the people- work together in this direction. It is impossible to believe that governments alone could successfully give response to the epidemic. Nor isolated individuals and organized groups from the civil society will be able to do so.

HIV/AIDS puts civil organizations and governments under the obligation of finding new ways in sharing actions and working together. This is one way of strengthening and consolidating democracy.

This is why the Government of Argentina together with non-governmental organizations are working to develop preventive actions, such us the campaign aimed at certain vulnerable groups: intravenous drugs users and their sexual partners, men having sex with men, and sexual workers.

In addition to that, both national and provincial governments give financial support to non-governmental organizations and groups of individuals living with HIV/AIDS, so that they can multiply their preventive measures.

This year the national Government is developing a massive prevention campaign aimed at informing and raising awareness among the whole population. The first stage is directed to people under 25 years of age, since they are the most affected.

Argentina considers that, as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned, prevention can not be separated from care, support and treatment. This is why we advocate that people living with HIV/AIDS should act as multiplying agents for prevention and care. In that sense, the Ministry of Health, acting jointly with other Ministries -such as Labourrecently started support projects for people living with HIV/AIDS. Their activities will
 

be directed towards the strengthening of organizations of people living with HIV/AIDS and those affected by the epidemic all over the country.
Argentine legislation guarantees free access to medication and integral care for those who need them, through the Ministry of Health for those who have no medical insurance. This year there are 15,000 people under these circumstances, which represent about 75% of those receiving antiretroviral treatment. Since 1995, 4,500 people receive this kind of care though Social Security, and 500 people through private insurance.
Since 1993 the national Ministry of Health provides free medication. Since 1997, and thanks to the mobilization of civil society, the number of beneficiaries has increased. This led to a 20% reduction in the number of deaths caused by AIDS. The greater survival rate was accompanied by a better quality of life, the main goal of the Government actions related to HIV/AIDS. The cost of this kind of care entails a significant economic effort for the Government, which is fully justified. Nevertheless, it has to be said that in the past year a reduction of 72% in the cost of antiretroviral drugs has been achieved due to the increase of the competition among producers and to a very active negotiation by the Ministry of Health.

We are worried by the high vulnerability of young women and its consequences on the mother-to-child transmission. A better enforcement of the current legislation led in 2001 to a significant reduction of the incidence rate in children born from mothers who received AZT treatment.

These first achievements strengthen our commitment, because thousands of women and young men and girls are being infected, and we must increase our efforts to avoid it.

This is why, Mr. President, Argentina hopes that the commitment that we reach today will be a step forward in this fight. Should every country act more effectively against AIDS, within similar frameworks for the defense of human rights and personal dignity, the results will be effective.

Sr. President,

Argentina commits itself to support all nations, and at the same time hopes to receive support from them, so that together we will be able to overcome this epidemic. It is our aspiration that, by doing so, there will be more equality and justice in the world, without discrimination among people. The commitment made by all the countries will make this possible, and only by doing so shall we give meaning to the suffering of so many people all over the world.

Thank you.