Despite setbacks in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, the head of the UN agency charged with combating the deadly virus said he was optimistic that world leaders could still reach major milestones if HIV/AIDS finally received the same attention as other pressing concerns, such as global security.
Briefing correspondents at UN Headquarters after addressing a special General Assembly conference on the issue, Peter Piot, Executive Director of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said those milestones included universal access to both treatment and prevention, getting the right funding to people on the ground, and treating the epidemic both as an emergency and a long-term threat.
“It is clear now that HIV/AIDS will be for us for decades, that no quick fix will work,” he said. A long-term perspective would include both a focus on vaccines and a realization that the hundreds of thousands now requiring treatment for HIV/AIDS could turn into millions.
“That means thinking of 20, 30, or 40 years of treatment,” he added. “That’s why we’re doing this -- to make sure that people stay alive.”
Mr. Piot was joined at the briefing by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had earlier 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 by a 2001 special session on HIV/AIDS.
Also present at the briefing was Richard Feachem, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Outlining the financial needs to fight HIV/AIDS, Mr. Feachem stressed the need to substantially increase funding for prevention, testing, treatment, and care for HIV/AIDS orphans.
“That money must be absolutely rock-solid, absolutely predicable, and absolutely sustainable. Otherwise, those people will die within a few weeks of the termination of their treatment,” he said.
Video of press briefing [33mins]