The global movement to fight AIDS has been galvanized in recent years, offering hope that it will be possible to beat back the pandemic, a senior United Nations official told the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today.
"It is just 20 years since the world first heard about AIDS and now, for the first time, a global response is emerging that matches the devastating scale of the epidemic itself," said Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), introducing a new report by the agency to ECOSOC's meeting in Geneva.
AIDS now tops the world's political agenda, he said. "The long-standing commitment of ECOSOC to the global AIDS response has been joined by other UN organs, particularly the Security Council, the General Assembly with its recent special session on AIDS and the personal priority given to AIDS by the Secretary-General."
The content of the global agenda itself has changed, with AIDS now considered central to development. "There is a focus on the underlying causes of vulnerability," he noted. "Gender equality and responding to the epidemic among young people are seen as keys to long-term success."
In another breakthrough, extending access to care, including antiretroviral drugs, "has been transformed from a utopian dream to an emerging reality," said Dr. Piot. Benchmark prices for combination antiretroviral therapy in developing countries are now less than 10 per cent of the cost in high-income States.
Dr. Piot acknowledged the need to mobilize resources to fight the pandemic, and lauded Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal for a Global AIDS and Health Fund. "Governments will be in the best position to access the Fund where they have the technical support they need to pursue their priorities, where the UN system is acting in co-ordinated fashion, and where civil society and private sector partners are part of integrated planning," he observed.
Dr. Piot noted that the Declaration of Commitment adopted last month by the special session opened the way for further progress, and he called on ECOSOC to build on this momentum. "The reach of the Council is enormous," he said. "Amid all the competing priorities and perspectives, there is a clear duty required of the Council: to uphold the vision of a united, coherent, co-ordinated and full-scale AIDS response."