H.E. MR. JOHN AGYEKUM KUFUOR
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA
26TH SPECt:A1 SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON HIV/AIDS
Monday, June 25, 2001 New York
The Secretary-General of the UN,
It is a great honor for me to participate in the 26th Special Session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS which aims at reviewing and addressing the problem of HIV/AIDS in all its aspects and to secure a global commitment for intensified and coordinated action at the global and national levels against the pandemic. This meeting being the first ever by the General Assembly to strategize against a major disease is historic and significant. It is clear evidence of the global awareness and resolve to stand together and fight against threats to humanity. HIV/AIDS is a horrifying threat to all joy out of life itself.
It is a fact that no continent has been spared the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, Africa is the hardest hit, especially sub-Saharan Africa. According to available statistics, Africa is home to 70 per cent of adults and 80 per cent of children living with HIV/AIDS. These statistics are frightening and more so when we know that only about 40 per cent of the cases are recorded. What this means is that our social security and our economic development efforts are being undermined faster than we can by ourselves contain, and it- is imperative, therefore, that we marshall cell support and resources to arrest the situation on the continent.
It is in recognition of this urgency for concerted action against the pandemic that we, the leaders of Africa, met in Abuja in April, 2001, to sound the clarion call for battle-readiness on the continent and to seek the necessary support from all the nations of the world. It was at this meeting that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, launched the Global HIV/AIDS and Health Fund to constitute the central war-chest to combat this universal menace:
In Ghana, since 1986 when the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported Government has instituted measures to combat the disease. These measures culminated in the formulation of a -National HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework and the establishment of the Ghana Aids Commission under the Office of the President.
Today HIV/AIDS concerns are being mainstreamed into sector plans with specific roles assigned to private and public sector organizations. Civil society, including NGOs, religious groups and traditional rulers are now fully involved in open discussions on the media. This is helping to eliminate the moral squeamishness towards sufferers, and encourage open discussion and increased information to enhance management of the pandemic.
The success of these policies and programmes in Ghana like elsewhere in Africa is however dependent on the availability of financial and material resources, which are woefully inadequate on the continent. Despite the 'budgetary constraints faced by governments in Africa, it was decided at the Abuja Summit that at least 15 per cent of our annual budgets would be allocated to the improvement of the health sector to combat the pandemic. Significant as this initiative is, it must be admitted that it will be inadequate without sustained and concerted international assistance directed at both prevention of the disease and mitigation of its impact on sufferers and society.
In this regard, we lend our support to the call by the SecretaryGeneral for the establishment of a Global HIV/AIDS and Health Fund which should be administered by the United Nations, with all the urgency and dispatch the crisis commands.
Poverty, underdevelopment. and-illiteracy have been identified as . major challenges to effective HIV/AIDS response in developing countries. It is, therefore, imperative that this Session resolves to assist these countries implement internationally agreed strategies to eradicate these handicaps.
To this end, my delegation calls for international cooperation and solidarity with Africa in the combat against HIV/AIDS. We also call for the following measures:
i. Debt relief;
ii. Acceleration of the enhanced- - Heavily Indebted - Poor-Countries Initiative (HIPC);
iii. Reversal of the declining levels of official development
iv. Additional resources from donor countries and the private sector.
It is also our expectation that this Session will address the issue of accessibility and affordability of essential drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa and the promotion and protection of their rights. The international community should further ensure that global trade policies are used more effectively to increase access to care and treatment, and we should also encourage increased investments in research on the development of vaccines.
Finally, Mr. President, I would like to reiterate here the commitment I made in Abuja to provide my personal leadership for our national programme and to work with all involved in this global fight until we achieve success. It is the hope of my delegation that the Declaration of Commitment to be adopted by this Session will be backed by the required political will, the spirit of international solidarity and adequate resources for its effective implementation to give hope to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
I thank you.