Special Session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS
Round table 3: Socio-economic impact of the epidemic and the strengthening of
national capacities to combat HIV/AIDS 26 June 2001



I had the honour to chair Round Table 3 which had been allocated the subject "Socio-economic impact of the epidemic and strengthening of national capacities to combat HIV/AIDS".

The round table provided a useful opportunity for an open and interactive thematic dialogue. Discussions focused on the socio-economic issues identified in the document prepared by the Secretariat for this round table, current levels of global response, and the four priority areas set out in the paper as a way forward for collective action.

All participants underscored the need for urgent collective global action against HIV/AIDS and expressed their keenness to evolving a common strategy to prevent and combat this unprecedented threat to humanity. Representatives of States described their national and regional programmes and strategies to fight the epidemic and reduce its socio-economic impact. It was generally agreed that each country had to devise its own preventive and combative strategy and implement goal-oriented policies. Intemational involvement should be limited to advancement and making available adequate resources for affordable and sustainable treatment and medicine.

Participants in the round table agreed that HIV/AIDS and poverty were closely linked and that poverty-reduction must, therefore, be an integral part of the campaign against the epidemic. Debt relief and increased flows of ODA were essential to that effort and more information was sought about the operation of the recently established Global Fund.

Participants also stressed the need for education and information including value-based information, to change the behaviour of young people and provide social support  for people living with HIV/AIDS. One speaker suggested that faith-based organizations could play an important role in those efforts. Emphasis was also placed on broader access to health care and treatment, including counselling and testing, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and management of related diseases and infections. Health cure infrastructure also needed to be strengthened.

Some speakers introduced the concept of social capital, which was defined as a network of shared values that strengthened the social fabric and in which societies must invest. Participants agreed on the need to place emphasis on vulnerable social groups, including the poor, orphans, women, children and the elderly, and to respect their rights and their dignity.

The participants stressed that since this was a common challenge, it must be fought with a unified approach. In this regard, views were expressed that any common approach must show full respect for each others cultures, faith and values. There should be no attempt to impose norms of one society over the other. The paramount need is to reduce poverty and increase availability of resources for prevention, care, and treatment, which should be affordable for every victim without discrimination and selectivity.

lt was generally agreed that political commitment at the highest levels was needed in order to successfully combat the epidemic. The gravity of the problem had now been recognized and efforts were being made to forge a common strategy.

Finally, I wish to thank all participants of the round table for their interest and valuable views expressed during the round table.