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Ban Ki-moon calls for stepped-up, united action against HIV/AIDS

Ban Ki-moon calls for stepped-up, united action against HIV/AIDS

Ban Ki-moon (left) addresses GA on HIV/AIDS
The number of people living with HIV has risen in every region of the world despite progress towards achieving universal access to treatment, prevention, care and support, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling for a more united front among to defeat the pandemic.

In a speech to the General Assembly session reviewing the implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, reached by United Nations Member States in June 2001, Mr. Ban said he was encouraged by recent initiatives around the world to improve the care and treatment of people living with HIV.

Some 90 countries have set access targets, with many aiming to double or triple the coverage of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment by 2010; several nations have set aside special health, education and welfare services to AIDS orphans; and 2 million extra people in low- and middle-income States are receiving treatment, according to his interim report on global progress in the past year towards meeting the Declaration.

“And yet the epidemic is still spreading,” Mr. Ban told the meeting, noting that the number of cases has increased on every continent.

Pledging that the fight against AIDS would remain a system-wide priority at the UN during his term as Secretary-General, Mr. Ban called for the scaling up of existing schemes in Africa to widen access – especially among women and girls – to prevention programmes.

He added that a more comprehensive approach should be taken to tackling diseases often linked with HIV, such as tuberculosis, and called for greater investment in tools for prevention and treatment, such as vaccines and microbicides.

“It means mustering the political will to address the factors that drive the epidemic – including gender inequality, stigma and discrimination,” he said.

More women, including married women, live with HIV/AIDS than ever before, and nearly half of the 40 million people living with the disease are female. HIV has infected 65 million people and killed 25 million since it emerged at the start of the 1980s.

Opening today’s meeting, Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said she hoped that the feminization of AIDS would be a major element of the session’s deliberations.

Sheikha Haya noted that new infections in sub-Saharan Africa, the region worst affected by HIV/AIDS, are up to six times higher for young women than they are for young men.

“We must constantly ask ourselves: what are we doing to fight this global emergency, and what more can we do?” she said. “Whether we continue to act and give the highest priority to this matter, future generations will either praise us or hold us accountable for our failure to prevent the spread of this disease.

“This is a make-or-break time, but beating this disease is entirely within our reach.”

Mr. Ban’s interim report stated that if current trends in scaling up care and treatment programmes continue, the number of people receiving ARV drugs in 2010 will reach about 4.5 million – or less than half of those classified as being in urgent need of treatment.

During the open debate today, speakers from several dozen UN Member States urged renewed political commitment to tackling the disease and greater funding for poorer countries without access to the resources available in industrialized economies.