JACKEO A. RELANG,
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE REPUBLIC
OF THE MARSHALL ISLANDS
TO THE UNITED NATIONS
AT THE TWENTY-SIXTH
UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL SESSION ON HIV/AIDS
June 27, 2001
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government
Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen:
His Excellency President Kessai Note asked me to convey his best wishes and commitment to this Special Session. Regrettably, his schedule would not allow him to be with us. I am honored to make a few remarks on behalf of the Delegation of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
At the outset, the Republic of the Marshall Islands commends the important role and dedication of Ambassador Wensley of Australia and Ambassador Kar of Senegal leading up to this very important Special Session, and applauds the leadership of H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. His personal commitment and guidance in his impressive report is highly welcomed and appreciated. My Delegation associates itself with the statement to be made later today by the Honorable Minister of Health of Tuvalu on behalf of the members of the Pacific Island Forum.
Humanity is confronted with the grave challenge of how to effectively respond to the spread of the deadly disease HIV/AIDS. While we respect each other's diverse cultures, religious beliefs, traditions and other concerns, the destructive force of HIV/AIDS respects no national borders.
Given the limited resources of the Marshall Islands, the lack of adequate infrastructure, high cost of drugs and technical capacity to effectively fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, one confirmed case of a person infected with HIV/AIDS is one case too many, and a heavy burden and pressure on our already heavily burdened health care system. Just like any other small island developing states, the Republic of the Marshall Islands with a population of 60,000 people of which more than 42% is between the ages of 15 and 19, is faced with a vulnerable situation which will have far reaching negative impact to its sustainable economic development plans.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands, along with its neighboring countries, is faced with these peculiar situations requiring a revisit of our major groupings within our organization. The vulnerability of the Marshall Islands to an escalation of HIV/AIDS is intensified due to the high mobility within and across borders, the risky lifestyle choices of youth, and the traditional and cultural barriers that make it difficult to talk openly regarding sexual behaviors. However, the government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands must be ready to provide health and clinical services, as well as to engage all levels of our society through education, awareness and prevention programs, care and access to treatment by strengthening its public systems. The major thrust in our effort to prevent HIV/AIDS from establishing a foothold in the Marshall Islands and reduce the number of STI cases and other factors that puts the RMI at a high risk of HIV/AIDS transmission, is focused on prevention, surveillance and management. In recent years, both surveillance and management activities has focused on the following:
1. Improve and refine surveillance systems
2. Reduce the morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases
3. Reduce the social and economic impact caused by HIV/AIDS
4. Increase the number of trained clinical staff
5. Increase awareness, education and prevention programs
Preventative measures include a collaborative strategy in partnership with local communities, traditional leaders, nongovernmental agencies, women, youth and church groups, and the government taking an active leadership role. An HIV/AIDS Prevention Community Planning Group was assembled in June 1998 aimed at increasing community participation and local capacity building.
The high mobility of populations requires the development and implementation of improved networks and technical resources including the exchange of basic and diagnostic information across country borders.
The partnership between the government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the specialized agencies of the United Nations, the United States of America and Japan aimed at increasing awareness of the dangers of HIV/AIDS in our efforts to combat the spread infectious diseases is highly appreciated.
The establishment of the fund to combat the HIV/AIDS is most welcome, and I wish to applaud the Secretary-General and the cooperation and partnership of civil society, individuals and others for their generosity. We have high hope and confidence the fund will be effectively utilized through partnership and cooperative efforts. I also wish to encourage the members of the United Nations to further consider and welcome the generosity of countries which are keen to collaborate with our organization and its specialized agencies to improve the life of peoples of the World. My government welcomes the keen interest of the government of the Republic of China on Taiwan and its generosity to cooperate as a full partner of WHO, and this organization.
We must not fail to fulfill our human rights commitments because of cultural, religious and other barriers which can place limits on effective implementation of education and awareness initiatives, providing care and treatment, provision of affordable drugs, funding assistance, overcoming the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, and the promotion of prevention programs. The Republic of the Marshall Islands stands committed to contribute to the global efforts to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and welcomes the adoption of an effective and forward looking declaration during this Special Session.
Thank you, Mr. President.