Abuja, Nigeria

15 July 2013

Secretary-General's message to Abuja+12 Special Follow-up Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Other Infectious Diseases [delivered by Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Executive Director of the United Nations Popu

I am pleased to send greetings to this important Summit.

At the beginning of this century, Africa’s leaders declared the AIDS epidemic a full-fledged emergency and made unprecedented commitments on tuberculosis and malaria.  They pledged increased government funding for health and called on donor countries for greater support.  The following year, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria was born.  Since then the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, the Stop TB Partnership, and the entire UN system, under the umbrella of UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, have rallied global support, triggering one of the most spectacular responses in the history of infectious diseases.

Twenty-five per cent fewer people die of malaria worldwide now than in 2000.  Each year, less people fall ill with TB, and the world is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reversing the spread of the disease by 2015.  Dramatic progress has also been made in the fight against AIDS.  With nearly 10 million people on antiretroviral therapy worldwide, fewer people are dying or becoming infected.

Before the 2001 Abuja Declaration, HIV treatment in Africa was almost nonexistent.  Just 11 years later, 7.5 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy.  In seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, new HIV infections among children have been reduced by 50 per cent or more.  Africa is now leading the world in the drive to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV by 2015.

The key has been strong leadership – beginning with the political commitments outlined in the original Abuja agreements that generated a flow of funds from within Africa and from the international community.  Scientific advances have also played a major role – with simplified diagnostic tests and safer and more effective treatments – along with the commitment of health workers continent-wide.

Yet, HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other infectious diseases still pose a significant threat to well-being and development in sub-Saharan Africa.  Every minute a child dies of malaria.  One in 20 adults lives with HIV.  TB infection rates are the highest in the world, with more than 260 cases per 100,000 people in 2011.  And many Africans endure the double burden of HIV and TB.

Less than a thousand days remain until the MDG deadline.  The Goals are in sight, but much still needs to be done.  Let us heed the warnings of history.  Failure to maintain momentum can halt and even reverse progress.  My call at Abuja+12 is for renewed leadership and increased domestic and international funding – new investment in improved tests and drugs, stronger health services to deliver them. 

This Summit can provide a tipping point in Africa’s progress on health.  Let us place AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria at the centre of public health policy, including in humanitarian aid, peacebuilding, conflict resolution and development.  Let us finish the job begun at the beginning of the century so we can bring greater security, opportunity and prosperity to all the people of Africa.