SECRETARY-GENERAL APPLAUDS PARTICIPANTS IN AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT MARCH
Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annanto the AIDS Memorial Quilt March in Washington, D.C., 3 June:
This march is a fine example of the kind of response we need across the world in facing up to HIV/AIDS. The pandemic is a catastrophe of global proportions. More than thirty-six million people today are living with the virus. The vast majority of them are in sub-Saharan Africa, where the devastation is so acute that it has become one of the main obstacles to development, further impoverishing entire countries and limiting their capabilities to recover. But parts of the Caribbean and Asia are not far behind, and the pandemic is spreading at an alarming rate in eastern Europe, too.
Last year alone, three million people worldwide died from the virus -- the highest annual total of AIDS deaths so far. It is as though the population of five cities the size of Washington, D.C, had been wiped out in the space of asingle year.
For the past two decades, global progress in facing up to the pandemic has been painfully slow. But for much of the international community, the magnitude of the crisis is finally beginning to sink in. We must now build on this to galvanize global awareness. To defeat this epidemic that haunts humanity, and to give hope to the millions infected with the virus, we need a response that matches the challenge. That is why I have issued a call to action to the whole world, asking every sector of society to play its full part in the fight against AIDS.
And that is why the commitment of all of you here today is so important. Three weeks from now, delegates from governments all over the world will gather at United Nations Headquarters for a Special Session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS. It is essential that they hear people speak up about the virus and demand decisive action against it. And so, on behalf of the United Nations, I thank you for taking part today. You have understood that AIDS is our problem, and nothing less than a test of our common humanity.
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