WOMEN REAL HEROES OF FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL, AS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY OBSERVED AT HEADQUARTERS

8 March 2004
OBV/407-WOM/1441

WOMEN REAL HEROES OF FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL, AS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY OBSERVED AT HEADQUARTERS

08/03/2004
Press ReleaseOBV/407 WOM/1441

WOMEN REAL HEROES OF FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL,

AS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY OBSERVED AT HEADQUARTERS

It was among women that the real heroes of the war against HIV/AIDS were to be found, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning at the annual Headquarters observance of International Women’s Day, which this year focused on women and HIV/AIDS.

In most countries and communities, he said, it was women who had been the most active and effective advocates and activists in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  Supporting those women, and encouraging others to follow their example, must be the strategy for the future.  “It is our job to furnish them with strength, resources and hope”, he stated.

Speaking from its Geneva headquarters, the World Health Organization’s Director-General, Lee Jong-Wook, said that in many places women had far less access to health information, care and services than men did.  “This inequality frequently prevents women and girls from obtaining treatment for HIV/AIDS when sick, and from protecting themselves against infection.”  Economically, women often could not buy the needed health care because they did not have control over household resources.

Culturally, he continued, in some parts of the world a woman needed permission from another household member to avail herself of health services.  Socially, women were often more stigmatized than men for being HIV positive.  Logistically, the distance of services from home, and the times during which they were available, often made them accessible to men, but not to women.  HIV-treatment programmes must include components aimed at overcoming those barriers and challenging the social norms which placed women at a disadvantage.

Commenting on the effect of HIV/AIDS on women in the Middle East, Queen Noor of Jordan said that experts had questioned the accuracy of the low rates of infection in that region, due to the widespread stigma attached to the disease.  Many of those who carried the HIV virus would simply rather die than risk encountering rejection, or worse, from family, friends and community.  “Our strong sense of family and religious traditions may inhibit behaviour that spreads the virus, but, at the same time, those traditions may inhibit testing and reporting of those who may be infected.” 

And in a culture where, tragically, women in particular could sometimes be at risk from their own families at any suggestion of sexual impropriety, the risks were magnified, she said.  The biggest challenge to countering the spread of HIV/AIDS in her region now was overcoming the stigma and cultural taboos that prevented the vulnerable from protecting themselves against infection and seeking out the timely diagnosis and treatment they needed.

Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said that facing the stark reality of the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and children could be an opportunity for change and transformation as people became more willing to abandon traditional ways and stereotypes and partner with others to find solutions.  “While there is much cause for concern, there is also hope.”  Encouraging signs were the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, bilateral funds and the launching last month of the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS.

“Perhaps the most compelling example are the millions of courageous women and men in Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Romania, Senegal, Thailand, Uganda and Zambia, who, with their governments, donor countries, the private sector and civil society, prove daily that the spread of HIV/AIDS can be contained”, she said.  And that, with the empowerment of women and partnership with men, meant the goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS was within reach.

In the discussion that followed, moderated by Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information Shashi Tharoor, panellists addressed a range of issues associated with the pandemic, including how migration and trafficking in persons impacted the spread of HIV; the role of men and boys in preventing violence and the spread of HIV; and the role of the private sector, and making medicines and prevention methods more accessible to women.

HIV/AIDS was an enormous public health challenge for all governments in the developing world, and the factors leading to the disproportionate burden on women were many, stated Linda M. Distlerath, Vice-President, Global Health Policy, Merck & Co., Inc.  It was too daunting for any one government or institution to manage on its own.  The pharmaceutical industry’s three-pronged approach to HIV/AIDS -– research, access and partnerships -– connected the creation of new drugs and vaccines to the delivery of those interventions to women, men and children in developing countries.

The pharmaceutical industry’s primary role in addressing the challenge of HIV/AIDS was the continued investment in the research and development of new medicines and vaccines, she added.  Women were playing an important role in the development of an HIV vaccine through their strong participation in the ongoing Phase I clinical trials -– approximately one half of the enrolled volunteers were women.

It was imperative to work with men, stated Dean Peacock, South Africa Programme Manager, EngenderHealth, because contemporary gender roles often encouraged men to act in ways that compromised women’s health, increased women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and exacerbated the impact of the epidemic on women’s lives.  To support men to take courageous stands in the service of gender equality, there was a need to reach out to men as part of the solution and to highlight and celebrate the stories of those men who defied destructive stereotypes.

“It is my firm belief that by working together to promote new and egalitarian models of masculinity, we can build families and communities in which women are less vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and violence, more in control of their sexual and reproductive lives, and in which men, women and children enjoy healthier and happier lives”, he said.

Presentations were also made by Ndioro Ndiaye, Deputy Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM); George Alleyne, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean Region; and Noerine Kaleeba, Partnerships and Community Mobilization Adviser, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Opening Statements

KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General, said that this year International Women’s Day was devoted to one of the most critical issues of the time.  At the beginning, many people thought of AIDS as a disease striking mainly at men.  Even a decade ago, statistics indicated that women were less affected.  But a terrifying pattern had since emerged.  All over the world, women were increasingly bearing the brunt of the epidemic.  Today, in sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of all adults living with HIV/AIDS were women.  Infection rates in young African women were far higher than in young men.

In the world as a whole, he said, at least half of those newly infected were women.  Among people younger than 24, girls and young women now made up nearly two thirds of those living with HIV.  If those rates of infection continued, women would soon become the majority of the global total of people infected.  As AIDS stuck at the lifeline of society that women represented, a vicious cycle developed.  Poor women were becoming even less economically secure as a result of AIDS.  They were often deprived of rights to housing, property or inheritance or even adequate health services.

In rural areas, AIDS had caused the collapse of coping systems that for centuries had helped women to feed their families during times of drought and famine.  That, in turn, led to family break-ups, displacement and migration, and yet greater risk of HIV infection.  Society paid, many times over, the deadly price of the impact on women of AIDS.

What was needed was real, positive change that would give more power and confidence to women and girls, and transform relations between women and men at all levels of society, he stated.  Change that would strengthen legal protection of women’s property and inheritance rights, and ensured that they had full access to prevention options -– including microbicides and female condoms.  Change that made men assume their responsibility –- in ensuring an education for their daughters; abstaining from sexual behaviour that put others at risk; forging relations with girls and very young women; and understanding that when it came to violence against women, there were no grounds for tolerance and no tolerable excuses.

That was why, he said, last month, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) launched a Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, made up of prominent and committed men and women from all walks of life.  The Coalition would aim at specific steps on the ground to improve the daily lives of women and girls.  And it would build further on the critical role that women already played in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  Also, he hoped that the recent recommendations of the Task Force on Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, led by Carol Bellamy, would serve as inspiration for accelerated action by governments and their partners in the nine most severely affected countries.

In most countries and communities, it was women who had been the most active and effective advocates and activists in the fight against HIV/AIDS, he said.  Supporting those women, and encouraging others to follow their example, must be the strategy for the future.  “It is among them that the real heroes of this war are to be found.  It is our job to furnish them with strength, resources and hope.”

LEE JONG-WOOK, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaking from Geneva Headquarters, said since September 2003, the WHO, UNAIDS and other partners in the United Nations system had been engaged in an all-out effort to make AIDS medicines available to 3 million people by the end of 2005.  WHO’s slogan was “Health for all”, but in many places women had far less access to health information, care and services than men did.  “This inequality frequently prevents women and girls from obtaining treatment for HIV/AIDS when sick, and from protecting themselves against infection”, he said.

Economically, he continued, women often could not buy the needed health care, because they did not have control over household resources.  Culturally, in some parts of the world a woman needed permission from another household member to avail herself of health services.  Socially, women were often more stigmatized than men for being HIV positive.  Logistically, the distance of services from home, and the times during which they were available, often made them accessible to men, but not to women.  HIV treatment programmes must include components aimed at overcoming those barriers and challenging the social norms which placed women at a disadvantage.

Where treatment is available, he said, the fear that made people avoid voluntary testing and counselling was greatly reduced.  The “3 by 5” initiative offered a unique opportunity not only to bridge the treatment gap, but to overcome gender-based inequities.  “Let me be clear”, he said.  “If by the end of 2005 we have brought anti-retroviral treatment to many men and few women, ‘3 by 5’ will have failed.  We must use this historic opportunity to save the lives of women and girls, and to raise their position in society.  Let us show by our use of these precious resources -– these medicines –- that we know how precious the lives of women and girls are.”

Queen NOOR of Jordan said that recent reports suggested that an estimated 600,000 people were living with the virus in the Middle East and, tragically, about 45,000 people died of AIDS last year.  Those numbers, although considered modest compared with other regions, were unacceptable.  While data on the region was limited, its experience might still provide some revealing extremes.  Despite an infection rate among the lowest in the world, the proportion of those infected who were female –- 55 per cent as of 2002 -– was higher, especially in conflict areas, than anywhere except sub-Saharan Africa.

Paradoxically, she said, both of those facts could be attributed to geography, economics and especially to social and cultural norms concerning women, men, sexuality and family.  “Our strong sense of family and religious traditions may inhibit behaviour that spreads the virus, but, at the same time, those traditions may inhibit testing and reporting of those who may be infected, she said.”  Experts had questioned the accuracy of those low rates of infection, due to the widespread stigma attached to the disease.  Many of those who carried the HIV virus would simply rather die than risk encountering rejection, or worse, from family, friends and community.

And in a culture where, tragically, women in particular could sometimes be at risk from their own families at any suggestion of sexual impropriety, the risks were magnified, she said.  The biggest challenge to countering the spread of HIV/AIDS in her region now was overcoming the stigma and cultural taboos that prevented the vulnerable from protecting themselves against infection and seeking out the timely diagnosis and treatment they needed.

She noted that the relatively low level of HIV/AIDS in the Middle East right now presented a risk or an opportunity -- a risk to underestimate the potential danger of the pandemic and delay action, or the opportunity to mobilize the political and social will to act forcefully to reverse that spread.  The most effective way to do that was to focus on women.  For both cultural and physiological reasons, women were at least twice as susceptible to HIV infection as men.  Research had linked women’s disempowerment directly to increased rates of HIV/AIDS infection.  Addressing women’s critical lack of access -– to resources, to information, to freedom of choice –- could transform them from primary victims to prime agents in the fight to end the disease.

ANGELA E.V. KING, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said women were no longer aiming solely at equality with men, but at opening up avenues to have the widest possible opportunity for employment, for a place in decision-making, in shaping government policies, for access to training, for ownership of land, property and inheritance, for the right to be free from violence.  “We have come a long way since International Women’s Day was first celebrated at the United Nations” in 1975, she said.  The seed that had been sown by a small group three decades ago had grown enormously.

She said over the years, the Commission on the Status of Women had effectively and persuasively chipped away at flagrant gender discrimination, such as excessive poverty among women and girls, their lack of education and training, and HIV/AIDS and the girl child.  The Commission had boldly brought to the table what were, until a few years ago, such unspoken taboos as domestic violence, female genital mutilation, marital rape, honour killings and male dominance.  Those were some of the key issues that combine to make women and girls especially vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on women had been stressed in the special session of the General Assembly on Gender Quality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century and on HIV/AIDS, culminating in the Millennium Summit and its Declaration and Goals.  Facing the stark reality of the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and children could be an opportunity for change and transformation as people became more willing to abandon traditional ways and stereotypes and partner with others to find solutions.

Today’s “third wave” of HIV/AIDS, targeting more women than men, had devastating social and economic effects.  A World Bank study estimated that some countries, like Zimbabwe, would see a 30 per cent drop in gross domestic product (GDP).  Zambia was losing 1,000 teachers a year.  Swaziland would lose one third of its civil servants in the current decade.

She said “While there is much cause for concern, there is also hope.”  Encouraging signs were the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, bilateral funds and the launching last month of the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS.  “Perhaps the most compelling example are the millions of courageous women and men in Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Romania, Senegal, Thailand, Uganda and Zambia, who, with their governments, donor countries, the private sector and civil society, prove daily that the spread of HIV/AIDS can be contained.”  And that, she continued, with the empowerment of women and partnership with men, meant the goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS was within reach.

Presentation by Panellists

NOERINE KALEEBA, Partnerships and Community Mobilization Adviser, UNAIDS, said that she would premise her statement on her experience as an African woman widowed by AIDS.  Thirty years ago, the global community had not even heard about AIDS.  Today, the world was faced with a global pandemic which was threatening the very core of human existence.  Seventeen years ago, her husband Christopher died within a year of his diagnosis.  The pain and indignity of his illness coupled with the stigma they both suffered as a family made her angry.  That anger caused her to fight the stigma.  She helped form a support group -– TASO (The AIDS Support Organization), which adopted as its slogan, “living positively and dying with dignity”. 

As far as the international community had come in the fight, she said, it had a long way to go in overcoming the pandemic.  Leadership was important, especially female leadership.  Everyone, individually and collectively, must commit to be able to do whatever was possible, take up responsibility and do something practical.  Information was not enough.  Girls had sex with older men not only because they did not know better, but in order to get school fees or to replace the father they lost.  Sex workers did not agree to have sex without a condom because they did not know the risk.  They did so because they got paid more to do so.  What women needed were practical options, jobs and support to get treatment.

Also, she said, just having programmes available would not ensure women’s access to those programmes.  She had been working with UNAIDS, which had been charged with catalysing, galvanizing and initiating initiatives that would make a difference.  Recently, UNAIDS had initiated the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, to amplify and galvanize what was happening in various areas, including reducing violence against women and supporting universal education for girls.  There were two actions which could make an immediate impact on the situation of families living with AIDS.  The first was to ensure that children, especially girls, went to school and remained in school for as long as it took for them to mature biologically and to acquire the survival skills they needed.  The second was for everyone to sponsor at least one HIV positive woman who was on treatment, in order to offset the orphan crisis.

GEORGE ALLEYNE, Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, said the gender pattern of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean had been well documented.  The mode of transmission was now firmly heterosexual in all countries.  AIDS was not an equal opportunity killer.  It was predominantly a killer of young adults in their most productive years and was disproportionately affecting young women.  The reasons for that were biological, as well as social.

He said most HIV infection took place in early to late teens.  Where data was available in the Caribbean, girls of 15 to 19 years old outnumbered boys of the same age group by five to one in new HIV infection.  As boys were more sexually active and had their first sexual experience much earlier than girls, one would expect that they would show higher incidence than girls

He said there was no quantitative data regarding stigma, discrimination and ostracism against women and girls in the Caribbean, but there were heart-rending accounts from individual women.  There were accounts available of the ravages of self-stigma and the loss of self-esteem that accompanied it, leading to social paralysis.  Also, the region was intensely homophobic and, by extension, there was considerable ostracism of people known to have been infected.  That stigma prevented persons from coming forward to be treated and prevented formation of support groups.  A UNAIDS study relating to the gender differences in acceptance and treatment of AIDS showed that men with HIV were hardly questioned about how they became infected and were cared for.  Infected women, however, were often accused of marital infidelity and received lower levels of support.

The Caribbean showed a “remarkable paradox” in terms of education and HIV.  About 75 per cent of recent university graduates were women.  However, for every level of education there were more women under therapy than men.  It would, therefore, appear that the gender discrimination that made it difficult for women to negotiate sex was not overcome by education.  That called into focus the need for education to provide very early certain life skills that would enable the female to cope with pressures for unwanted or transactional sex as adolescents.  The vulnerability of the young female was shown by a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) study of adolescent behaviour, which mentioned that about half of the girls had been forced into their first sexual encounter.

Noting that International Women’s Day should be a day on which nations of the world would come together, he said those nations of the world were comprised of government, public sector, private sector, civil society, and citizens.  Only when all those components worked together could real progress be achieved.  Only when all of them took action could the pandemic be contained.  He hoped that, as a gift to Ms. King, “we all commit ourselves to the genuine international action around the issue of HIV/AIDS and women”.

NDIORO NDIAYE, Deputy Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that women made up nearly half of the migrant population around the world, estimated today at approximately 175 million persons.  That meant that there were approximately 87 million migrant women on the move today.  On the link between migration and HIV/AIDS, she said that, in the recent past, one of the main concerns of governments was that migrants would be carriers and propagators of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and would transport infections into countries.  While that preoccupation had not entirely disappeared, there was increasingly an awareness that migrants often lived in situations where they were more vulnerable to HIV than local populations.  She underlined that male or female migrants did not, in and of themselves, constitute a risk factor in the transmission of HIV/AIDS. 

HIV/AIDS was not strictly a medical issue, but rather a cross-cutting one which needed to be addressed from a wide range of angles, she said.  That was obvious in the area of trafficking in women, and the IOM’s experience in the field had led it to attempt to integrate HIV/AIDS issues in IOM’s counter-trafficking activities.  IOM’s strategy to counter trafficking consisted of three pillars:  prevention through research and data collection, awareness-raising information campaign, and capacity building and technical cooperation; direct protection and assistance for trafficked persons in reception centres where IOM provided legal, social and medical counselling; and assistance for their voluntary return to countries of origin and their reintegration.

HIV/AIDS, trafficking and migration had one thing in common –- they knew no borders and could be found all over the world, she stated.  While the first two fed on female powerlessness due to gender discrimination and the abuse of what was considered women’s inferior status and her vulnerability, the third could quickly become an unwilling partner of the first two.

DEAN PEACOCK, South Africa Programme Manager, EngenderHealth, renewing the call of last International Women’s Day for men to take action in support of gender equality, said EngenderHealth had been implementing “Men as Partners” in South Africa over the last six years.  It was imperative to work with men because contemporary gender roles often encouraged men to act in ways that compromised women’s health, increased women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and exacerbated the impact of the epidemic on women’s lives.

He said implementing the Men as Partners (MAP) programme in South Africa had given reason to believe that working with men could make an enormous difference.  Men could and did change their attitudes and practices and were often eager to take a stand against violence and for gender equality.

One of the key strategies of the programme was to help men see how it was in their own interest to do so, because the same gender roles that left women vulnerable to HIV/AIDS also put men’s own health at risk.  Also, men often cared deeply about the women in their lives and were frequently devastated by violence perpetrated against them.  Moreover, pervasive domestic and sexual violence cast all men as potential perpetrators.  Finally, relationships based on equality and mutual respect were far more satisfying than those based on fear and domination.  However, change was not easy.  When a man was trying to be different, he was asked, “What kind of man is behaving in this fashion?  Is there something missing in you as a person?”

In order to support men to take courageous stands in the service of gender equality, there was a need to reach out to men as part of the solution and to highlight and celebrate the stories of those men who defied destructive stereotypes.  Programmes and strategies must be rooted in local communities and build on cultural strengths.  There was also a need to forge strong partnerships between women’s advocacy organizations and programmes working with men.  A “big tent approach” must be promoted based on alliances and institutions that influences attitudes and practices as large number of men.  Those would need to include ministries, trade unions and the private sector, faith-based organizations, the military, sporting and entertainment industries, schools and the media, and community-based organizations.

“It is my firm belief that by working together to promote new and egalitarian models of masculinity, we can build families and communities in which women are less vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and violence, more in control of their sexual and reproductive lives, and in which men, women and children enjoy healthier and happier lives”, he said.

Dr. LINDA M. DISTLERATH, Vice-President, Global Health Policy, Merck & Co., Inc., spoke about the role of the pharmaceutical industry in addressing the needs of women faced with HIV/AIDS.  She said the industry’s overall approach in tackling the global pandemic was three-pronged:  research for new drugs and vaccines for HIV/AIDS; facilitating access to those technologies for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; and forming partnerships to help build the health-care capacity to utilize those inventions.  For the vast majority of women around the world, HIV/AIDS was not manageable at all, and women with AIDS had little hope to live much longer.

The pharmaceutical industry’s primary role in addressing the challenge of HIV/AIDS was the continued investment in the research and development of new medicines and vaccines, she said.  Today, more than 70 medicines for the treatment of HIV/AIDS were available and more than 80 new medicines were under development.  Women were playing an important role in the development of an HIV vaccine through their strong participation in the ongoing Phase I clinical trials –- approximately one half of the enrolled volunteers were women.

She said that through the varied efforts of several pharmaceutical companies, women and children were directly benefiting from programmes targeted at reducing mother-to-child transmission, improving access to care and treatment, and enhancing women’s involvement in community-based HIV/AIDS-prevention initiatives.  Merck believed that the only sustainable way to address HIV/AIDS was through public-private partnerships.  The Merck/Gates/Botswana Initiative, also known as the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships, or ACHAP, was Merck’s most ambitious public-private partnership and sought to scale up Botswana’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The pharmaceutical industry’s three-prong approach to HIV/AIDS -– research, access and partnerships -– connected the creation of new drugs and vaccines to the delivery of those interventions to women, men and children in developing countries, she said.  HIV/AIDS was an enormous public health challenge for all governments in the developing world, and the factors leading to the disproportionate burden on women were many.  It was too daunting, however, for any one government or institution to manage on its own.  The lessons learned by Merck were to:  set lofty goals; do something today; focus on the needs of women and girls as primary bearers of the HIV/AIDS burden; and bring hope to women and men that they and their children might live a longer and healthier life, despite HIV/AIDS.

Panel Discussion

Answering a question from the floor regarding research in microbicides,   Dr. DISTLERATH said several pharmaceutical companies were working on it.  Research into vaccines was also important.  Her company’s investments over two decades into research and development of vaccines exceeded investments in development of therapies.  Highlighting the need for research and development, she stressed the importance of partnerships between the public and private sectors.

She added that, regarding testing, there was still a long way to go.  Testing, after all, was the first step towards treatment and prevention.  However, no matter what type of initiatives was taken, documenting and sharing was one of the most important aspects.

Mr. PEACOCK, addressing a question about reproductive health education, said an article in The New York Times yesterday had reported success in terms of changing young men’s attitudes about sex.  Regarding a remark from the floor that men often fled their partner when she disclosed she was HIV positive, he said the disproportionate burden on women to disclose was often not addressed.  Instead of getting tested themselves, men often insisted their partners were tested, in proxy.  Men’s utilization of testing services must increase.  However, funding of programmes that worked with men must not reduce those aimed at women and girls, he said, noting that men were often in a better position to leverage new resources.

Ms. NDIAYE, noting the existing lack of partnerships, education and care facilities, stressed that emerging programmes must take those gaps into account.  As women in some places had more rights than in other areas of the world, ensuring women’s rights all over the world should be part of “Beijing plus 10 and beyond”.

Asked how the United Nations could ensure the funds for the prevention of HIV/AIDS in Africa were not used by governments for other purposes, Ms. KALEEBA said responsibility for using resources was primarily a national one.  However, the United Nations was promoting the “three ones”:  one national strategic plan; one national coordinating authority; and one monitoring and evaluation framework.  Specifically, the monitoring and evaluation framework would benefit from United Nations technical assistance.

As far as stigma was concerned, she said Uganda had had success in the fight against it, because of the openness of people infected with HIV and their families.  However, HIV-infected people could not be involved if they were not treated; therefore, countries needed to invest in treatment.  If not treated, people with HIV were ill and weak and could not address stigma.

Dr. ALLEYNE said that the question of education should go beyond reproductive health, as people needed many skills in life.  Addressing another remark from the floor, he said the reason special envoys of the Secretary-General for HIV/AIDS in several regions had been appointed was to get access to leaders, in order to engage them and make them more active in HIV/AIDS-related issues.

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For information media. Not an official record.