BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE FIFTY-EIGHTH SESSION
OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
ON WORLD AIDS DAY
1 DECEMBER 2003
is World AIDS Day. It would have been uplifting, on this
Day, to report that the world has made remarkable progress
towards halting and reversing the deadly and devastating
HIV/AIDS pandemic. The reality, however, is much different.
On 25 November 2003, UNAIDS launched its AIDS Epidemic
Update 2003, bringing to our attention the latest
developments on this pandemic - the news is not good. Far
from abating the epidemic is worsening.
statistics continue to paint a very grim picture. At the
end of 2002, some 38.6 million adults and 3.2 million children
were living with HIV/AIDS. Half of the people infected with
HIV are infected before they are twenty-five and die from
AIDS before they are thirty-five. Orphaned children are
a serious consequence of the tragedy - some experts say
that 28 million will be orphaned by HIV/AIDS in the next
decade. It is particularly disturbing that 95 percent of
the more than 42 million people living with HIV/AIDS live
in the developing world.
we place these statistics in the context of critical but
onerous health costs, declining financial flows, the challenges
of globalisation and trade liberalisation, economic stagnation
and slow growth rates, and above all, the impact on the
productive work force, what is at stake for developing countries
seriously affected by HIV/AIDS, particularly those in Africa,
the Caribbean and increasingly in Asia, becomes evident.
the enormity of the HIV/AIDS problem in the developing world
cannot be overstated, this deadly pandemic knows no boundaries
- no country or region is immune from it. The scope, extent
and impact of HIV/AIDS make it a highly complex problem,
touching on issues of health, human rights, poverty, social
cohesion, and socio-economic development. Addressing these
issues requires a global response. This is the approach
to which we committed ourselves at the United Nations Special
Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001, and which we embodied in the
United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and
at the High-level Plenary on HIV/AIDS in 2003. It also underpins
our undertaking in the Millennium Declaration to halt and
reverse the spread of the disease.
Theme for World AIDS Day 2003, Stigma and Discrimination,
focuses our attention on the personal tragedy of those infected
with HIV/AIDS and on their families. Isolation, marginalisation
and discrimination against those affected and against their
families constitute a major obstacle to effective HIV/AIDS
prevention and care. The world community cannot make progress
against this deadly pandemic as long as we hold such prejudices.
We must, through education and public awareness, clear away
misconceptions that distort our understanding of the nature
of the disease and confront stigma and discrimination so
that we can meet our obligations to those who so desperately
need our support. We must implement the declaration, conventions,
treaties and agreements on human right and fundamental freedoms
in respect of people living with HIV/AIDS.
are some encouraging developments, in the midst of the HIV/AIDS
crisis. The pandemic is no longer shrouded in secrecy -
increasingly countries are meeting the crisis head on. The
World Health Organization and UNAIDS have released a concrete
plan to provide antiretroviral treatment to three million
people living with AIDS in developing countries and countries
in transition by the end of 2005 - a similar course of action
is being pursued by a number of Governments. Progress has
also been made in respect to the development and availability
of generic drugs and some pharmaceutical companies have
agreed to lower the price of HIV/AIDS treatment in developing
countries. This is welcome news. The challenge now is to
ensure that these drugs reach the people who need them most.
is yet much to be done. For further progress, we should
learn from the successes in those countries which have managed
to stem the tide of the HIV/AIDS onslaught. We can strive
to improve the dissemination of critical knowledge in the
areas of preventive measures, early warning signs, care
treatment and training of health care workers. We can mobilise
resources to accelerate scientific research on treatment
and prevention and we can assist in building capacity, particularly
in developing countries, to enable them develop HIV/AIDS
prevention strategies that are culturally sensitive.
society is a powerful force in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
We should therefore strengthen partnerships with civil society
to make our work in behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS
more effective. Also, we must persuade governments to contribute
to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and Malaria.
reality is, however, that whatever progress we have made
is simply not enough. We cannot use "otherness"
as an excuse for doing nothing - we cannot stigmatize, we
cannot discriminate. We constantly need to remind ourselves
that each and every one of us is vulnerable in one way or
another to this deadly disease. Likewise, we all have a
role to play in preventing and halting this disease. We
can ill afford strategies that are reactive - they must
be proactive. Hopefully science will one day give to us
the vaccine we need to counter this global pandemic. My
hope is that it will be sooner, rather than later - the
lives and health of the peoples of the world depend on it.