Describing his meeting with HIV-positive United Nations staff yesterday as one of the most moving experiences of his life, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has vowed to step up efforts to eliminate the stigma that still surrounds AIDS sufferers in so many countries.
Mr. Ban said he was touched by the courage shown by the members of UN+, a group of staff living with HIV from across regions and UN agencies, as well as the directness with which they spoke about their lives.
“I felt ashamed on their behalf,” Mr. Ban said later, referring to the discrimination that people living with HIV often face around the world, including in Asia and his own country, the Republic of Korea.
The Secretary-General said that on his next trip to Asia he would visit an AIDS clinic or similar facility as part of efforts to speak up on behalf of those living with HIV and to help in the fight against the stigma.
Mr. Ban’s meeting took place the same day the General Assembly began a session reviewing implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, reached by UN Member States in June 2001.
Assembly members concluded their discussion today, adopting a decision welcoming the Secretary-General’s recommendations – contained in his most recent report charting progress towards the Declaration – for setting national targets for achieving universal access to HIV prevention programmes, treatment, care and support.
Since the pandemic emerged at the start of the 1980s, HIV has infected 65 million people around the world and claimed an estimated 25 million lives.
In a related development, the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced today that by mid-2007 more than one million people worldwide will be reached with antiretroviral (ARV) treatment under programmes it supports. This represents a dramatic rise on the estimated 544,000 who received ARV treatment in mid-2006.
The Fund also announced that the number of insecticide-treated nets distributed to families facing the threat of malaria is expected to rise from 11.3 million last year to 30 million by next month.
The number of tuberculosis cases treated under DOTS (directly observed treatment, short course) programmes is forecast to double to 2.8 million by the middle of this year.