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Commitments on HIV/AIDS must be matched by actions – Assembly President

Commitments on HIV/AIDS must be matched by actions – Assembly President

Srgjan Kerim, President of the 62nd session of the General Assembly
The world's renewed momentum to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic must be matched by accelerated efforts to implement commitments to obtain universal access to prevention, treatment and care by 2010, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim says after wrapping up a high-level meeting on the issue.

In his closing remarks last night to the three-day meeting, held at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Kerim stressed the need for leadership and political accountability, saying Member States need to sustain and scale up the progress they have made so far.

“We must not lose the momentum of our global response,” he said. “For every two people that begin HIV treatment, there are five new HIV/AIDS infections.”

More than 160 Member States and observers took part in this week's debate, which reviewed the progress towards the internationally agreed goal to achieve universal access to care, prevention and treatment by 2010.

Mr. Kerim said it was vital to remember that HIV/AIDS was a public health issue as well as a development issue, and that the disease is among the biggest threats to sustained economic developments in some countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

“An effective response to the pandemic must therefore become a central feature of all our development efforts. This means that strengthening public health systems, including by stemming the brain drain, must go hand in hand with an effective national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS.”

Human rights and gender equality must be at the core of an effective response to the pandemic, he added.

“The rights of people living with AIDS, and other vulnerable groups, must be protected, including women's rights to make informed decisions about their sexual health.”

The Assembly President also called for much better access to prevention, treatment and support services, especially for at-risk populations such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and transgender people.

Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said the meeting highlighted the collective consensus “that there is still so much to do.

“We must capitalize on the commitment to urgently scale up services,” Dr. Piot said. “UNAIDS will continue to support countries in maintaining an exceptional, long-term response to the epidemic.”