OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON HIV/AIDS
H. E. Mr. Bohumil
Head of the Delegation,
Minister of Health of the Czech Republic
New York, 27 June 2001
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have the honour to speak here today on behalf of the President of the Czech Republic, Mr. Václav Havel.
Aware of the widespread HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is now passing its third decade, the Czech Republic was one of the first initiators of the open discussions of this problem. At this point I would like to express our appreciation to the co-facilitators of the preparatory process, Ambassador Debra Ka and especially Ambassador Wensley, for their tireless efforts towards completing the Declaration of Commitments.
There is no doubt that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is now a global crisis and constitutes one of the most serious destabilizing factors of development and social progress. From the very beginning the Czech Republic has taken part in the activities of the Global Programme on AIDS and also of its successor, UNAIDS programme. Moreover, for many years we closely co-operate with the neighbouring European countries in medical, social and economic areas.
Our country has been so far lucky and is not affected by the spread of the disease. It still ranks among the European as well as world countries with the lowest HIV/AIDS incidence. By May 2001, there were a total of 514 HIV-infected persons registered in the Czech Republic. Of this number, 151 persons have already developed the clinical stage of AIDS. And 90 people have so far died of the disease.
We are of the opinion, that the proper coordination at the national
level is very important. Our government closely collaborates with other
civil society actors - NGO's, economic and research institutions, people
living with HIV/AIDS and their families. Our programme against HIV/AIDS
is based on prevention. Both governmental and non-governmental sector pays
great attention especially to young people by enhancing the sexual and
family education in our schools. Clear and open dialogue with all vulnerable
groups is fundamental for further action.
An effective prevention is based on a widely accessible voluntary HIV testing and pre- and post-test counseling. Each district of my country - and there are more than 80 locations in 10 million population - provides access to this type of tests. High priority is given to the reduction of mother-to-child HIV transmission risk. As of 1st January 2001, HIV tests for all pregnant women are mandatory, with the aim to administer free specific antiretrovirus prophylaxis to all HIV+ women. The first three cases of HIV-positive babies
in the Czech Republic have been a sufficiently warning signal and, at the same time, a corresponding stimulus for giving adequate attention to this issue.
We also pay close attention to the care availability and quality of the treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS in our clinical AIDS centres. Therapy and prophylaxis is covered by health insurance and by a national HIV/AIDS subsidy.
We recognize that the dimensions of this epidemic have grown beyond the control of individual countries of the world, however rich or large they may be. The only possible way out of this situation is to mobilize all reserves in the area of international co-operation, science and preventive activities that have, in various parts of the world, proved effective. I fully agree with the Secretary-General Kofi Annan, that "we cannot deal with AIDS by making moral judgments or refusing to face unpleasant facts, and still less by stigmatizing those who are infected and making out that it is all their fault."
At the outset, let me quote the President of the Czech Republic, Mr. Václav Havel, whom I have been authorized to represent in this Assembly: "Allow me to express a hope that this Session will contribute to closer co-operation of all countries in their efforts to prevent and eradicate this dangerous disease which is a scourge for the whole world, and, especially, for African countries."
Thank you for your attention.