New York

30 November 2006

Secretary-General's message for World Aids Day, delivered at St. Bartholemew's Church

Thank you, Reverend Bean.

Dear friends,

My wife Nane and I are extremely moved to be here with all of you. I am so happy my colleage Peter Piot came here from Geneva to be with us. Let me thank all the organizers, and all of you who have come tonight to show your commitment to the struggle against HIV/AIDS.

In the 25 years since the first case was reported, AIDS has changed the world. It has killed 25 million people, and infected 40 million more. It has inflicted the single greatest reversal in the history of human development. In other words, it has become the greatest challenge of our generation.

For far too long, the world was in denial. But over the past 10 years, attitudes have changed. The world has started to take the fight against AIDS as seriously as it deserves.

Financial resources are being committed like never before. People have access to antiretroviral treatment like never before. Several countries are managing to fight the spread like never before. But as the spread continues, we need to mobilize like never before.

Because the response has started to gain real momentum, the stakes are higher now than ever. We cannot risk letting the advances that have been achieved unravel; we must not jeopardize the heroic efforts of so many.

The challenge now is to deliver on all the promises that Governments have made. Leaders must hold themselves accountable -- and be held accountable by all of us.

That is why accountability is the theme of this World AIDS Day. Accountability requires every President and Prime Minister, every parliamentarian and politician, to decide and declare that “AIDS stops with me”.

It requires them to strengthen protection for all vulnerable groups -- whether people living with HIV, young people, sex workers, injecting drug users, or men who have sex with men.

It requires them to work hand in hand with civil society groups, who are so crucial to the struggle.

It requires them to work for real, positive change that will give more power and confidence to women and girls, and transform relations between women and men at all levels of society.

But accountability applies not only to those who hold positions of power. It also applies to all of us.

It requires business leaders to work for HIV prevention in the workplace and in the wider community, and to care for affected workers and their families.

It requires health workers, community leaders and faith-based groups to listen and care, without passing judgement.

It requires fathers, husbands, sons and brothers to support and affirm the rights of women. It requires teachers to nurture the dreams and aspirations of girls.

It requires men to help ensure that other men assume their responsibility -- and understand that real manhood means protecting others from risk.

And it requires every one of us help bring AIDS out of the shadows, and spread the message that silence is death.

I will soon be stepping down as Secretary-General of the United Nations. But as long as I have strength, I will keep spreading that message. And I think we should all fight, and fight, and fight -- until we contain this epidemic. That is why World AIDS Day will always be special to me.

On this World AIDS Day, let us vow to keep the promise -- not only this day, or this year, or next year -- but every day, until the epidemic is conquered.

Thank you very much.