Vital progress made towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment – Ban

Vital progress made towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment – Ban

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon  addresses high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS
The world has made “important achievements” in its quest to obtain universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, demonstrating what can be done where there is sufficient political will, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly today.

The world has made “important achievements” in its quest to obtain universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, demonstrating what can be done where there is sufficient political will, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly today.

Women and children are benefiting especially, he said in an address to the start of the Assembly’s two-day high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS, where he presented his latest report on the progress made so far towards the goal of universal access established by United Nations Member States.

More mothers now have access to interventions that prevent transmission to their infants and more HIV-infected children are receiving treatment and care programmes. At least 3 million people now have access to anti-retroviral treatment in poor or middle-income countries.

The report indicates how investments made over the past 10 years – which include $10 billion last year alone – are starting to bear fruit, with decreases in both new infections and total deaths during the past decade.

But Mr. Ban warned in his speech today that too many people are still becoming newly infected, dying from the disease or not receiving anti-retroviral treatment despite being in urgent need.

Last year, for example, “there were twice as many people in need of anti-retroviral treatment and going without, as there were receiving it,” he said. “This situation is unacceptable.”

He urged world leaders “to build on what we have started, bridge the gaps we know exist, and step up our efforts in years to come. We can do this only if we not only sustain but step up our levels of commitment and financing.”

Halting and reversing the spread of AIDS forms part of one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the anti-poverty targets which world leaders have agreed to try to meet by 2015.

But the Secretary-General stressed that the fight against the epidemic “is a prerequisite for reaching almost all the others,” including those to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, curb the spread of malaria and tuberculosis, cut poverty and improve nutrition.

Peter Piot, the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), told the Assembly that it was important to shift to a new phase in the AIDS response in which the disease is treated as both an immediate crisis and a long-wave event.

“This is our best opportunity to reach universal access. We cannot miss this chance,” Dr. Piot said.

“Continuing with business as usual or giving in to those who pretend that ‘AIDS has been fixed’ (or has not become a so-called generalized heterosexual epidemic) will simply condemn millions of people to perfectly avoidable deaths.”

Dr. Piot called for greater efforts to make HIV drugs more available and affordable “to all people, whoever they are, whatever their lifestyle,” and an urgent increase in HIV prevention projects, such as possible vaccines and microbicides.

Stigma and discrimination around AIDS remain as strong as ever, he added, calling on all countries to drop entry restrictions to people simply because they are living with HIV. Dr. Piot also noted the persistence of gender inequality and homophobia in relation to the disease.

“AIDS may be one of the defining issues of our time – but it is clearly now a problem with a solution. Equally clear, however, is the fact that achieving that solution will take time and that we’ve still only just started what’s going to be a long, tough job.”