Mr. President, Excellencies, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:
My delegation extends to you, Sir, hearty congratulations and high praise for your skillful and effective conduct of the Special Session, which the Secretary General has helped to place on centre stage.
With respect to this global crisis posed by HIV/AIDS which has brought leaders from around the world to address the pandemic, my delegation begins by quoting the man of science and culture, Leonardo da Vinci many centuries ago: "In moments of crisis, we should regard ourselves as passengers in the same vessel, threatened by the same rough seas, sharing a common struggle and common destiny." This global crisis has sounded the clarion call for global action, as the way forward.
The leaders have come to mobilize into a partnership for action, governments, at the national, international and regional levels, NGOs, corporate sector, foundations, the UN family and other stakeholders.
If we succeed, and we must, humankind will be spared the scourge of this dreadful, debilitating and baffling killer disease.
Many victims of HIV/AIDS have found themselves in this life and death struggle through no fault of theirs-poverty, underdevelopment, illiteracy being the main contributing factors.
Mr. President, the major tragedy in all this, however, is the family, especially orphans, widows, widowers, and, to some extent the grandparents, some of whom in their advanced age are called upon to be parents again.
The grim statistics compiled globally make it unmistakably clear that the Caribbean is second only to Sub-Sahara Africa in the incidence of HIV/AIDS infection and mortality. According to UNAIDS and the Caribbean Epidemiology Center, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection as a percentage of the population is 2.11%.
AIDS is now the leading cause of death for those aged 15-45 years and the number of cases is growing exponentially, doubling every two to three years.
My country, Grenada, is no exception. With a relatively small population, the number of cases reported is of necessity small, but when it is considered that more than 75% of the cases reported, die within two years, the statistical significance is very obvious. Prevention, treatment and care, are sadly lacking due to the unavailability and high cost of medication.
The surveillance of Sexually Transmitted Infections, particularly HIV/AIDS, is very limited in Grenada. The National AIDS Programme is hampered when reporting even the cases diagnosed by both public and private practitioners. There is also the lack of cooperation in the area of contact tracing and partner referrals for counseling and treatment. This hinders the efficiency of HIV/AIDS surveillance and makes it difficult to determine the extent of the disease.
The issue of confidentially is also a major concern, and as a result persons who may require HIV testing are hesitant, for fear that their identity might be known, thereby exposing them to prejudice, discrimination and rejection.
My Government has in place a National Aids Programme of education, information, counseling and advocacy but needs financial assistance in the preparation of its Priority and Strategic Action Plans in order to access massive HIV/AIDS funding.
All of the above having been said, it would seem that the way forward globally is to follow the Draft Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS meticulously prepared under the brilliant and distinguished leadership of the two co-facilitators, Ambassadors Wensley of Australia and Ka of Senegal.
Let me touch briefly on just two elements in the Draft Declaration-Resources and Prevention. Our knowledge of the etiology and epidemiology of HIV/AIDS is largely useless without the political will and the funding to confront the disease, especially in the Caribbean, where there is the danger that resources will be drawn from other critical public health and social needs.
It is estimated that the funding cost of HIV/AIDS globally will be between 7 and 10 billion dollars annually, and according to the UWI the cost of funding AIDS in the Caribbean will be in excess of $360 million dollars annually. It would seem, therefore, that no potential contributor should be ignored or rejected. This brings to mind the case of the Republic of China on Taiwan, which is ready, willing and able financially, scientifically and otherwise to put its vast resources at the service of the UN.
Prevention is the first and main defense against HIV/AIDS. The maxim an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is as old as it is true.
My delegation compliments UNAIDS for highlighting in a holistic way the ABC of AIDS prevention and care-A stands for Abstinence, B for Be faithful and C represents Condomise. The intent is to emphasize each element in the equation. However, it must be stated with undiplomatic candour that abstinence is only given lip service.
Traditional institutions-home, school and church should be encouraged and assisted at every level to promote abstinence and fidelity as one of the preventive measures against HIV/AIDS especially among children.
It makes good old common sense, without attempting to teach morality, moral rectitude or the theological virtues.
Less early sex among children, less chances of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted disease.
I end as I began with this quotation so appropriate to the tragedy:
There is a tide in the affairs of men/Taken at the flood leads on to fortune/Omitted, all of the voyage of their lives are bound in shallows and in misery/On such a sea are we now afloat/We must take the current while it lasts/Or lose the voyage of our lives.
Let us take the floodtide, which this Special Session brings to the
fight against a modern day plague!