Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I stand here before you on behalf of the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO), a global network of iron?governmental and communitybased organizations. We are the community groups throughout the world that provide care to people living and affected by HIV/AIDS, advocate for their human rights, and work to implement, and where necessary create, meaningful and sustainable public policies and programs.

ICASO has played a significant role in coordinating and facilitating civil society inputs and activities related to this Special Session. The vast majority of us in civil society strongly believe that what the General Assembly says and does is critical to intensifying and accelerating the global response to AIDS. That is why we have been working so hard to influence the drafting of the Declaration of Commitment over the past months.

You have been wrestling with issues that have never before been raised in the General Assembly-indeed, it is important to acknowledge that this is the first time that this body has convened specifically to discuss AIDS. That is both an indictment of the General Assembly's inactivity over two decades, and a striking testimonial to the leadership of the Secretary General and the President of this General Assembly.

If we are to turn back the tide of AIDS, if we are to reverse HIV infection rates, if we are to save the lives of millions of people - in fact, if we are to have any affect on this pandemic at all, we cannot shy away from being very specific about the groups who are most vulnerable to infection, who need to be educated about prevention, and who need care and treatment. You have decided that you cannot name them - I can. They include men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and their sexual partners, and sex workers and their clients.

Religious beliefs and cultural practices cannot impede the progress we have made thus far. Governments that place religious tenets above a candid and comprehensive response to the epidemic are committing an egregious sin. No god, in any religion, in any culture, could countenance the death and devastation this disease has caused. It is up to us, not to any deity, to stop this thing now.

The Secretary-General has said and popular opinion agrees that the financial resources needed to accelerate and intensify a global response to AIDS exist - all that's needed is leadership and political commitment to meet the targets. You, the governments of the world, must act to mobilize those resources through whatever mechanism is most efficient. If that mechanism is the much talked about Global Fund for AIDS, I urge you to include civil society in the governance and administration of the Fund, in the monitoring and evaluation, and you must do all you can to ensure that the money from the Fund goes directly to the community groups who need it most, and who know best how to spend it. Civil society will pursue this agenda aggressively in the coming weeks, as the architecture of the Fund is deliberated.

From our perspective, the Declaration that you have agreed and will now adopt, has all the right targets, all the ambitions, and all the ideology required to become a powerful tool. We all know that the United Nations system cannot realize this Declaration alone. You need partners and we stand ready. We have been working on this for 20 years, and we know what to do.

ICASO intends to use the Declaration to call for better policies that lead to more effective programs at all levels. We will hold governments accountable to the commitments made in this document, and we will be your allies in making this more than just another global policy statement - we will help you make this document a viable program of action, that defines our collective ambitions, that provides governments with reasonable, attainable goals, and that can be easily translated into more effective and aggressive programs. You have provided a comprehensive global policy - now we will be your partners and turn it into action.

One of the subtle devastation of AIDS is its ability to divide us: north from south, black from white, gay from straight, bureaucrats from activists ? we cannot let those divisions widen. If we don't work together, AIDS will win.

Thank you.