Bangladesh

STATEMENT

BY

SHEIKH FAZLUL KARIM SELIM, MP
HON'BLE MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND FAMILY WELFARE GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF BANGLADESH

AT THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPECIAL SESSION ON HIV/AIDS

New York, 27 June-2001

 

Mr. President
Mr. Secretary-General
Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,

    I am honoured to be here today, on this very important occasion. For the first time the General Assembly of the United Nations has raised this important public health issue - HIV/AIDS for discussion. We are all here, today, to share our concerns, our progress and our challenges and thus we can learn from the global experience and find our means and ways to protect our future.

Mr. President,

    I am thankful to present some glimpses of Bangladesh's HIV/AIDS situation. I share the highest commitment of my Government, and particularly of our Hon'ble Prime Minister Minister Sheikh Haisna, to the prevention of HIV/AIDS epidemic in Bangladesh. This commitment has been the source of our country's extremely proactive HIV/AIDS prevention programme. Bangladesh started the HIV/AIDS prevention programme very early in 1985, through the formation of a high level National AIDS Committee, which I chair.

    Bangladesh has formulated a National Policy on HIV/AIDS and STD related issues, Moreover, we have an implementation strategy as well as a Behaviour Change Communication strategy in place to counter the threats of the disease amongst our population. Recently, we have put strong emphasis to prevention of this problem. We have expanded the national prevention programme to cover the entire country. Learning from our experience and success in Family Planning, the prevention programme on HIV/AIDS has been mobilized considering our religious practice, traditional family values and cultural ethics at the core of the crux of the problem. We have accordingly involved our religious leaders, students, youth forces and community leaders for advocacy prevention programme of HIV/AIDS in our country. Due to our different positive steps, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Bangladesh is very low. We have only 157 cases out of a population of 127 million. However, given the wider perspective and magnitude of the problem, we urgently require financial and technical assistance from the UN. special fund for HIV/AIDS and from the international community to safeguard our people from this devastating public health problem.

    Our cabinet has recently approved legislation on safe blood transfusion, and initiated a massive programme to screen blood for safe transfusion in 97 centres across the country. This will be further expanded to cover the entire country through the establishment of a full-fledged National Blood Transfusion Service for which also we need special support.
 
    I would like to inform this august session that our Armed Forces have a very effective HIV/AIDS prevention programme. Though Bangladesh is now the largest UN peacekeeper in the world, only 3 sero-converted cases out of 39,000 armed forces personnel so far deployed in UN peacekeeping and other foreign missions have been detected since 1988.

    In spite of these achievements, we believe, we have a long way to go and cannot be complacent. Our big challenges, now, are building institutional capacity in order to be able to make optimum use of the resources we have mobilized. We require a range of assistance from technical to managerial, in Government and in civil society, to stay ahead of the epidemic.

    On behalf of my government and our country, I avail this opportunity to share our experience and renew our commitment to the United Nations to face this challenge unitedly. I would like to draw the attention of this session to the rapidly growing epidemic of AIDS in the countries of Asia, particularly in Bangladesh which has put a large number of our population at great risk.

Mr. President,

    You are aware of the fact that this killer disease does not limit itself to any geographical boundary. The escalation of economic activities, urbanization and globalization are all contributing to the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS amongst the younger generation of our people. I, therefore, strongly urge the international community for providing adequate funds for Bangladesh with a view to addressing this emerging problem. We also feel that the countries like Bangladesh and others in Asia, should be able to easily access to the essential anti-retro-viral drugs to reduce the cost of treatment for HIV/AIDS patients. This would be a positive step forward to keep hopes and aspiration of millions of our people alive.

Thank you, Mr. President, thank you all and have a good day.