Annan calls for collective action strong leadership, to turn back HIV/AIDS epidemic
Despite years of significant progress, the global battle against the AIDS epidemic is still losing ground, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told high-level officials meeting in New York to review progress made towards combating the deadly disease.
Saying that progress has been “significant but insufficient”, the Secretary-General warned that the epidemic is accelerating on every continent and called for more money and leadership to halt its spread, as he opened the General Assembly’s high-level review of efforts to achieve the goals adopted at a 2001 special session on HIV/AIDS.
That historic meeting had called for the rapid expansion of HIV prevention, care, treatment and impact alleviation by this year, 2005.
“The response has succeeded in some of the particulars, but it has not matched the epidemic in scale,” Mr. Annan said today, adding that only 12 per cent of those in need of antiretroviral therapies in low and middle-income countries are receiving them.
“The fight against AIDS may be the great challenge of our age,” he continued. “Only if we meet this challenge can we succeed in our other efforts to build a humane, healthy and equitable world.”
In addition to examining successes and failures in the battle against HIV/AIDS, today’s Assembly meeting is expected to outline solutions to policy shortcomings. To that end, it is holding opening and closing plenary sessions, as well as five roundtable discussions. Roundtables will cover such themes as prevention, human rights, resources, treatment, care and support, and children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Annan told the Assembly that prevention programmes were actually succeeding in Brazil, Cambodia and Thailand, and were making progress in the Bahamas, Cameroon, Kenya, Zambia and elsewhere.
“We must replicate and build on these successes,” he said. Doing so, he added, would require increased resources, better planning, more vocal leadership and real investment in the empowerment of women and girls.
Joining the Secretary-General at the morning’s plenary, were Assembly President Jean Ping, of Gabon, and Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. Mr. Ping stressed that the accelerating spread of HIV/AIDS were a major obstacle to reaching the UN’s Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015.
To illustrate the grimness of the situation Mr. Ping said that if strong, collective action is not taken, between now and 2006, 11 sub-Saharan African countries will probably lose more than one-tenth of their work force due to the scourge.
Video of high-level meeting [26mins]