KING OF SWAZILAND DESCRIBES A ‘NATION
OF DYING’ AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
MOVES TO CONCLUSION OF SPECIAL SESSION ON HIV/AIDS PANDEMIC
Many Speakers Echo Concern at Devastation of Disease,
Stressing Need for Adequate Funding of Massive Global Action
"My people are dying," King Mswati III of Swaziland told the special
session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS this morning. "They are
dying before their time, leaving behind their children as orphans, and a
nation in a continuous state of mourning. A quarter of all Swazis are
already infected with the virus that causes AIDS and we cannot avoid an
escalating tragedy of truly frightening proportions."
As the Assembly continued its general debate on the last day of the
session, the head of State of Swaziland said the success of the session,
and the only justification for its substantial expense would be measured
in terms of a reversal in the numbers of the dead and the dying. The
survival of his own nation, and many others, hung in the balance.
The Minister of Public Health and Social Welfare of Paraguay agreed. He
said economic, racial, political, cultural and religions differences
should be set aside. The AIDS epidemic affected everyone, and only a
joint effort would “allow us to win the fight against this terrible
Describing their efforts to overcome and prevent the pandemic, many
speakers in the debate agreed that even countries with low incidence of
the disease could not remain indifferent to the threat of HIV/AIDS
because they, too, had risk factors for its spread. Agreeing that the
situation in Africa required urgent attention, several representatives
also called attention to other severely affected regions, including Asia
and the Pacific, and the Caribbean.
The Minister of Health of Malaysia expressed disappointment that the
Declaration of commitment, which was expected to be adopted at the
closing of the session today, gave low profile to Asia and the Pacific.
"The impending epidemic in Asia and the Pacific will far surpass
anything previously seen if nothing is done today," he said. "It is our
earnest hope that the proposed Global Fund on AIDS will be appropriately
apportioned to ensure that this future disaster will be averted."
The Minister for Health, Human Resources, Family Affairs and Gender
Relations of Saint Lucia said that while the proposed global health fund
was a good supplement, it was not the solution to address the emergency
the world faced.
Of paramount importance was the immediate and adequate adjustment of
World Trade Organization (WTO) rules to allow countries to produce
affordable drugs to deal with the crisis.
Guyana's Minister of Health said that his country was painfully aware
that the Caribbean was now ranked as the second most affected region in
the world, with Guyana being its most affected country. It did not,
however, have the resources to protect itself against the pandemic. The
scourge of HIV/AIDS had begun to erode the significant social progress
his country had made in the last decade, offsetting the advantages of
debt relief which it had received.
The representative of Andorra announced her country’s intention to
contribute $100,000 to the Global Fund established by the
Also speaking this morning were the Prime Ministers of Belize and Viet
Nam; Ministers and high-level Government officials from Togo,
Micronesia, Guinea, Turkey, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Mauritania, Bangladesh,
Czech Republic, Vanuatu,
El Salvador, Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, and Argentina, as well as
representatives of Fiji, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Maldives, Marshall
Islands, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Assembly also heard representatives of the Observers for the Holy
See and Palestine.
Also this morning, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution,
approving the report of its Credentials Committee concerning the
participation of representatives of Member States in the current special
The Assembly is expected to hold the last meeting of its special session
at 3 p.m. today.
The General Assembly met this morning to continue its special session on
the review of the problem of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired
immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in all its aspects. (For
background, please see press release AIDS/22 issued on 21 June.)
KING MSWATI III, Head of State of Swaziland: My people are
dying. They are dying before their time, leaving behind their children
as orphans, and a nation in a continuous state of mourning. A quarter
of all Swazis are already infected with the virus that causes AIDS, and
we cannot avoid an escalating tragedy of truly frightening proportions.
We are all agreed that this meeting addresses the biggest risk to global
security. It requires the total commitment of all nations, because no
country will escape the effects of this catastrophe. There must be a
truly global effort to meet the challenge. The effort must not be
undermined by political considerations, nor through a belief that the
crisis is confined only to certain areas of the world.
Every source in Swaziland is strained to the limit, to help our people
in the areas of prevention, education, care and treatment. We are
grateful for support in our efforts from the United Nations agencies and
from our international partners. But our combined strength is as
nothing in the face of the tidal wave that has broken over us. We need
much, much more.
The tradition of the extended family and of community spirit is the
basis for our approach to providing care and support for the needy. We
depend increasingly on the traditions and culture of the past for
guidance, especially in the promotion of abstinence. Our traditional
healers have much to offer in research partnership with modern day
techniques and effective medicines.
We are looking to raise funds by targeting the huge reserves of good
will and compassion among the communities of the world. Inspired by the
example of the global response to the Live Aid event “We are the World”,
we are launching later this year an album of music by international
artists, called “Songs for Life”. Its title carries the message of
hope, in the global language of music, and the proceeds will go directly
to HIV/AIDS programmes throughout southern Africa.
SAID W. MUSA, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Foreign
Affairs, Belize: My country is both witness and subject to the
ravages of HIV/AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Belize, the
4.01 per cent prevalence rate ranks as one of the highest in the
region. With a population of 250,000 people who live in small
communities, the tragedy of HIV/AIDS directly affects many Belizean
families, our human resources and productive capacities. The stigma
associated with the disease encourages a culture of silence, resulting
in under-reporting and increasing attempts to deny and hide its
We have established a National AIDS Commission, whose primary
responsibility is to coordinate, facilitate, and monitor implementation
of the National Strategic Plan, which aims to change attitudes and
practices, implement inter-sectoral coordination and provide support
services to persons with HIV/AIDS. To be effective in the long-term, we
must learn from the experience of those caught in the centre of this
whirlwind pandemic. This means working harder to equalize the balance
of power between men and women. Gender equality is a critical component
in the process of changing sexual behaviour. Only when a woman is free
to choose how she lives her life will she possess the capacity to best
protect herself from HIV/AIDS.
There is no longer an excuse to shy away from our collective
responsibility. An effective national response cannot be successful in
isolation. There is need for global solidarity and support. If we are
to lift the death sentence from the thousands of our fellow human beings
who fall prey to HIV/AIDS, we must act together.
PHAM GIA KHIEM, Deputy Prime Minister of Viet Nam: Since 1990,
we have detected more than 36,000 cases of infection, of whom more than
3,000 have been fatal. We have been focusing our efforts on
communication and education, and on prevention measures for all,
especially for groups with high-risk behaviour. In addition, we have
been strengthening our health-care services, trying to mobilize the
maximum available resources. However, the number of infected persons
still increases rapidly.
Poverty, unemployment, drug abuse, ignorance, and unsafe sexual
behaviour are the main factors leading to the spread of HIV. In
fighting it, our experience shows that strong commitment on the part of
leaders is crucial, along with a multi-sectoral approach, and the
integration of the fight against HIV/AIDS into the fight against unsafe
behaviors, especially among adolescents.
Viet Nam calls upon developed countries to increase technical and
financial assistance to developing countries, and appeals to
pharmaceutical companies to adopt policies aimed at making the necessary
drugs available at low prices to the poor. We commit ourselves to
regional and international cooperation in the fight against HIV/AIDS and
sincerely thank the United Nations, various countries and international
organizations for their cooperation and assistance.
ELIUEL PRETRICK, Minister of Health, Education and Social Services of
Micronesia: I cannot over-emphasize the negative impact a spread of
HIV/AIDS would cause to my country, with its small and fragile
population. The first case was confirmed in 1989, having been
contracted abroad, but recently the first new case, locally acquired,
was discovered on a remote atoll, causing great alarm.
This issue requires discussion of many sensitive issues, and it requires
a focus on prevention along with a multi-faceted approach. My
Government, with assistance from the United States and the World Health
Organization, has developed short and medium term preventive,
educational and monitoring systems. Donor partners have also assisted
with programmes for high-risk individuals.
As a small nation, we cannot sustain these programs for long, nor would
we be able to combat a full-blown epidemic. We have other health needs
and few resources. We therefore express appreciation to those countries
that have already contributed to the Global Fund, and urge others to do
so. It is important that agreements reached at the end of this forum
are within a country’s means, in order to be implemented effectively.
SALIOV DIALLO, Minister of Health of Guinea: In the Millennium
Declaration, leaders from around the world made a solemn commitment to
fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. They set the goal of reversing the rising
trend of infection by 2015. In that connection, the international
community must help Africa, the continent most heavily hit by the
virus. Africa, the continent which is paying the heaviest price due to
the pandemic, is fully cognizant of its responsibilities.
Their efforts need to be supported and coordinated in a genuine spirit
of cooperation. We highly appreciate the initiative of the
Secretary-General to establish a Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS and other
infectious diseases. We are satisfied to learn of the pledges already
made, and appeal to all members of the international community to assist
in that regard.
My Government has undertaken a broad programme of social and economic
reforms aiming at reducing and stabilizing the number of virus carriers
and obtaining a full grasp of the pandemic. The recently adopted
national health plan lays special stress on the strategic plan for
HIV/AIDS prevention. It is intended that 70 per cent of resources which
result from the alleviation of the debt burden should go to the social
sector. The situation in Africa is such today that the efforts of its
governments and peoples will be of no avail unless the substantial
support of the international community was forthcoming.
OSMAN DURMUS, Minister of Health, Turkey: My country is still
among the least-affected by HIV/AIDS with 1,141 cases reported between
1985 and 2000. The majority are in the 25-35 age group, and although
the majority of infected are males, the number is rising among females.
We have taken measures to provide healthcare for all HIV/AIDS patients.
The State also covers the expense of those patients who for some reason
are not covered within the existing healthcare system.
Efforts aimed at changing social behaviour and educational measures to
improve consciousness, as well as improvements in self-protection, are
bearing fruit. We are well aware, however, that unless effective and
extensive prevention measures are taken, HIV/AIDS may become a serious
threat in Turkey. Efforts must be made to prevent AIDS from disrupting,
through prejudice and discrimination, the very structure of families and
society as a whole. Problems related to this disease should be openly
discussed in all related forums, while attempts are made to overcome
secretiveness as well as other cultural and traditional restraints that
prevail in society.
AIDS patients and their families should receive counselling so that they
do not isolate themselves and risk falling into depression. More
international assistance is necessary to support the struggle against
the disease. While Turkey appreciates the willingness of the developed
countries to contribute generously, the need to tailor specific
programmes to recognize the social, cultural and economic realities of
recipient countries must be kept in mind, rather than imposing
standardized programmes on them.
SARAH FLOOD-BEAUBRUN, Minister for Health, Human Resources, Family
Affairs and Gender Relations, Saint Lucia: Based on projections,
HIV/AIDS will consume approximately 4 per cent of the gross domestic
product of the Caribbean territories in the next 10 years. We therefore
call for an adequate allocation of UNAIDS funding to my region as the
second hardest hit area after sub-Saharan Africa. We would also like to
propose that any international funds made available to combat the
epidemic should be provided on a grant basis, and should be made
accessible to small countries such as mine.
While the proposed Global Health Fund is a good supplement, it is not
the solution to address the emergency we face. Of paramount importance
is the immediate and adequate adjustment of World Trade Organization (WTO)
rules to allow countries to produce affordable drugs to deal with this
crisis. It has been estimated that the cost of a comprehensive response
by the Caribbean countries to the HIV/AIDS epidemic is $260 million per
annum for the next five years. Several donors have already committed to
funding the Regional Strategic Plan for the disease.
Treatment and care continues to be the most under-represented and
under-addressed issue in our region. This applies not only to the issue
of medication but also access to care. The most fundamental and
critical component of AIDS treatment is access to affordable
medication. Sadly, because of lack of access to anti-retroviral
therapy, those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS continue to suffer as a result of
the prohibitive costs of treatment and anti-retroviral drugs. In
addressing access, we would like to reiterate the importance of the
development dimension of this epidemic, and the need for financial and
trading institutions to grant access to concessional financing and
assistance to small, structurally weak and vulnerable economies.
In the Saint Lucian scenario, despite significant efforts, the epidemic
shows no sign of abating. We still need to strengthen our surveillance
and testing capacity. This continues to pose a major public health
challenge. As it stands, we do not have a true picture of the
prevalence of the disease.
CHARLES GUERENS, Minister for Cooperation, Humanitarian Action and
Defence of Luxembourg: Twenty years ago when HIV/AIDS was
diagnosed clearly for the first time, it was an unknown disease killing
thousands of people. Now it is a major threat to the future of
humanity. Luxembourg had its first case of HIV/AIDS in 1984. Since
then, it has diagnosed a total of 470 infections. The most common form
of transmission is through sexual activity. All segments of our society
are affected. As the Secretary-General has stated, the four priorities
should be prevention, mother-to-child prevention, access to treatment
and care, and special attention on the most vulnerable groups.
Political commitment is crucial to achieving those commitments. The
role of women must be reinforced, as should medical structures. Without
the necessary financial resources, the fight will not be won.
Luxembourg has reacted in the area of international cooperation. In
2000, we went beyond the prescribed official development assistance (ODA)
0.7 per cent of GDP. We hope to reach one per cent by 2005. Bilateral
programmes for target countries are included in our cooperation
strategy, and we have participated in the UNAIDS Coordination Council.
The concept of tiered pricing would make medicines accessible to those
groups for whom they were not already available. Reducing prices will
not be the miracle solution. For the past four years, we have been
involved in a major prevention project in Niger and have set up a blood
transfusion centre in Rwanda. My country is at the head of the list
with regard to its expenditure in relation to GDP. The prevention and
treatment of AIDS requires a new level of openness and frankness.
FRIXOS SAVVIDES, Minister of Health of Cyprus: The countries
most affected by HIV/AIDS have found themselves in a state of emergency,
requiring urgent measures to reverse the spread of the epidemic and its
disastrous impact on social and economic stability, food security and
the life expectancy of their populations. Communities with weak
economies are gradually deprived by the epidemic of the very means
needed for effective responses to it. The countries least affected
nonetheless face the risk of sudden outbreaks of the epidemic,
especially among high-risk groups and people suffering from the effects
of armed conflict, violence and sexual exploitation. Many women, even
in societies with institutionally protected human rights, are often
placed in situations of vulnerability regarding their sexual safety and
freedom of choice. The global nature of the epidemic calls for urgent
and concerted action, since no country can bring about the necessary
The role of the United Nations is central to such efforts. And we agree
with the Federation of International Civil Servants Associations on the
need for the United Nations personnel policy on HIV/AIDS to be strictly
enforced. Where appropriate medications are not available locally,
they must be supplied to staff members through the United Nations
Cyprus has faced the HIV/AIDS problem since 1986, but remains a
low-prevalence country. The epidemic has been addressed as a priority
issue through a strategic plan in cooperation with the WHO and through
the establishment of a national committee with wide participation at all
levels. Financing and funding mechanisms were quickly put in place to
support the infected, and implement educational campaigns among the
population and special-risk groups. Medical treatment, hospital care,
testing and counseling have been offered free of charge. Though
encouraging, these facts do not warrant complacency or relaxation of
measures to tackle the epidemic. Time-bound targets set by the
declaration of commitment to be adopted at the special session will be
strictly respected and actively promoted by Cyprus.
BOYDIEL OULD HOUMEID, Minister of Health and Social Affairs of
Mauritania: Humanity is now taking the full measure of the HIV/AIDS
epidemic. Africa is by far the most affected continent. We have seen
that there is a direct correlation between the spread of HIV/AIDS and a
country’s economic condition. The prevention of poverty and
underdevelopment are the most effective ways to combat the disease.
Resources for prevention and treatment are also crucial. Therefore, we
support the Global Fund.
Mauritania has not been spared by the epidemic with 6,000 reported cases
of infection so far. This number is increasing. A decentralized,
multi-sectoral approach has been adopted to combat the spread. Our goal
is to implement a national strategic plan to integrate activities at the
national and international level. At this meeting, the commitment of
the entire international community is being expressed. It is our hope
that ensuing actions will be strong and effective.
MONICA CODINA TORT, Minister of Health and Welfare of the Principality
of Andorra: After this meeting, the taboos surrounding HIV/AIDS
must disappear. Those affected have the right to healthcare, and
everyone has the right to respect. Prevention, however, is paramount to
us, targeting first the young population through schools and special
events. Women have also received information in the work place.
A basic element in the entire discussion is access to medications. We
would like to encourage pharmaceutical companies to continue to make
changes in their policy to increase that access to all sectors of the
population. We are much concerned about the magnitude of HIV/AIDS
epidemic in Africa, which has destroyed the structure of society in many
areas. The firm will of every country is needed to provide assistance
to its own people, with the support of the international community.
The priority is financial assistance. In that light, I wish to announce
that my country intends to contribute $100,000 to the Global Fund, and
hopes all countries will respond generously. The courage shown by
thousands of people who are ill should be the best lesson to enable us
to face a future full of hope.
SHEIKH FAZLUL KARIM SELIM, Minister for Health and Family Welfare of
Bangladesh: Learning from our experience and success in family
planning, our prevention programme on HIV/AIDS has been mobilized taking
into account our religious practices, traditional family values and
cultural ethics. Accordingly, we have involved our religious leaders,
students and community leaders in advocating prevention programmes.
Because of our positive measures, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in
Bangladesh is very low -- only 157 cases. However, given the wider
perspective and magnitude of the problem, we urgently require financial
and technical assistance from the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS and from the
international community, to safeguard our people from this devastating
public health problem.
Our cabinet has recently approved legislation on safe blood transfusion
and initiated a massive programme to screen blood for safe transfusion
in 97 centers across the country. This will be further expanded to
cover the entire country through the establishment of a full-fledged
National Blood Transfusion Service for which we also need special
support. In spite of our achievements, we believe we have a long way to
go and cannot be complacent. Our big challenges now are building
institutional capacity in order to be able to make optimum use of the
resources we have mobilized. We require a range of assistance from
technical to managerial, in Government and in civil society, to stay
ahead of the epidemic.
BOHUMIL FISER, Minister of Health of the Czech Republic: There
is no doubt that the epidemic is now a global crisis, and one of the
most serious destabilizing factors of development and social progress.
From the very beginning, my country has taken part in the global
programme on AIDS and in the work of UNAIDS. For many years, we have
been closely cooperating with neighbouring European countries in the
medical, social and economic areas.
So far, our country has not been affected by the spread of the disease.
It still ranks among the countries with the lowest HIV/AIDS incidence.
Our Government closely collaborates with civil society actors, including
NGOs, economic and research institutions, and people living with the
disease. Our programme against HIV/AIDS is based on prevention. We
focus on young people by enhancing sexual and family education in our
schools. Clear and open dialogue with all vulnerable groups is
Effective prevention is based on widely accessible voluntary HIV testing
and counselling. High priority is given to prevention of
mother-to-child transmission. As of January 2001, HIV tests for
pregnant women are mandatory. We also pay close attention to care
availability and quality of treatment in our clinical AIDS centres.
Therapy and prophylaxis are covered by health insurance and by a
national HIV/AIDS subsidy.
We recognize that the epidemic has outgrown the control of individual
countries, however rich or large. The only possible way out of this
situation is to mobilize the reserves in the area of international
cooperation, science and preventive activities. I fully agree with
Secretary-General Kofi Annan that "we cannot deal with AIDS by making
moral judgments or refusing to face unpleasant facts.
CLEMENT LEO, Minister of Health of Vanuatu: Vanuatu, like
Tuvalu, reports zero confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS. Despite this clear
success story, we have not been complacent. The Government is deeply
concerned about the challenges and burdens this epidemic has placed on
human development and global security. Vanuatu, in several respects, is
vulnerable to this deadly disease.
As a least developed country (LDC), Vanuatu already faces many social,
economic and environmental problems. Among the risk indicators for AIDS
are high population mobility, increasing levels of unemployment and the
alarming incidence of traditional STDs. All this, coupled with cultural
factors and the lack of sophisticated technology for screening and
testing, may well point to under-reporting or a lack of detection
capacity. LDCs and small island developing States like Vanuatu stand to
lose a lot if they allow the pandemic to take hold of their small
We endorse the strengthening of human rights in our global fight against
HIV/AIDS, especially for vulnerable groups. Our prevailing cultural and
religious prejudices urgently need to be revisited. Vanuatu hails the
creation of the Global Fund for health and its emphasis on prevention
strategies. We acknowledge the contributing countries, sectors and
agencies, and look forward to meeting the targets set by the United
LESLIE RAMSAMMY, Minister of Health, Guyana: My country is truly
under siege. HIV/AIDS threatens to decimate large numbers of our
productive population. Unprecedented numbers of our children are being
orphaned while the fabric of our society is being relentlessly torn
apart. In addition, our socio-economic development, already lagging
behind most countries in the Americas, is threatened with destruction.
We are also painfully aware that the Caribbean is now ranked as the
second most affected region in the world, with Guyana ranked as its most
The prevalence rate of 5.5 per cent may well reflect significant
under-reporting of those affected in Guyana. The prevalence rate of 45
and 29 per cent respectively among sex workers and persons with sexually
transmitted infections (STIs) are not unlike prevalence rates in many
African countries. Nevertheless, we have established a strategic plan
that embraces partnerships with civil society organizations and persons
with HIV/AIDS. Guyana is committed to the reduction of mother-to-child
transmission and to addressing gender inequalities, stigmatization,
discrimination and human rights violations. We also believe that
treatment and care are inseparable from prevention efforts.
We do not have the resources to protect ourselves against the pandemic.
We recognize however that this is not just our business -- it is also
the world's fight. We are impatient with more talk, nice-sounding
rhetoric and declarations. We want action. The hesitancy and slowness
debt relief is not merely the reduction of debt, but debt forgiveness.
Despite the debt relief received by Guyana, which resulted in
substantial investment in the social sector, HIV/AIDS has begun to erode
the significant social progress my country has made in the last decade.
Unless Guyana can urgently access additional funds, our capacity to
sustain programmes for surveillance, voluntary testing, capacity and
infrastructure building and treatment will continue to be severely
limited. Pharmaceutical companies too must further significantly reduce
the price for anti-retroviral drugs. Cutting of prices to approximately
$1,000 per person per annum still excludes countries like mine. We
salute countries like Brazil and India for their efforts to produce
drugs at affordable prices. The knowledge and experience should be
fostered, particularly in the context of South-South cooperation. While
we welcome the Global Health Fund, we hope it does not become another
window to place conditionalities on developing countries.
FRANCISCO LOPEZ BELTRAN, Minister of Health of El Salvador:
HIV/AIDS has become one of the most formidable challenges to human
life. El Salvador is the most densely populated country in Central
America, and one of those most seriously affected by natural disasters.
We are also vulnerable to external economic conditions, such as the
international prices of oil and coffee.
El Salvador recognized that the HIV/AIDS pandemic has the full potential
to become a serious limiting factor to our development. Given its
social roots, the disease deserved a robust reply in which all actors of
society have a role to play. We are unifying our efforts together with
civil society and UNAIDS to face the pandemic.
The Government of El Salvador has established alliances with all
interest groups on the issue. A strategic prevention plan for HIV/AIDS
and infectious disease has been established. We have trained our health
staff in pre- and post-test counselling and have already begun treatment
for adults, children and pregnant women with anti-retrovirals to reduce
transmission. Our programmes place particular emphasis on young girls
and boys to promote values and healthy life practices.
Within the Central American context El Salvador hopes to achieve a
greater impact in its programmes, given the enormous exchange of
citizens and goods and services between our countries. We support the
declaration which the Assembly will be adopting, particularly the
setting up of a Global Fund, which will contribute to containing the
pandemic and promoting prevention and appropriate treatment. Because
this is a global crisis, it requires a broad and global response from
the international community.
MARTIN CHIOLA VILLAGRA, Minister of Public Health and Social Welfare of
Paraguay: As of last month, 655 cases of AIDS had been
officially recorded in Paraguay. In 1988, the Government established
the national AIDS control programme and initiated measures related to
prevention and assistance. The problem of HIV/AIDS has become an issue
of State policy. Academic reform in the country has allowed educational
institutions to take action in terms of prevention, aimed at children
and young people. Preventive measures are also being taken aimed at
prison inmates and drug users. Since 1996, the Ministry of Public
Health and Social Welfare has provided free medical attention to
infected persons, including laboratory testing, follow-up monitoring and
the supply of anti-retroviral medication.
Paraguay proposes to support the immediate implementation of a common
fund for the fight against AIDS, within the context of prevention and
assistance. The fund should be applied to reduce inequality in
investments between countries with low and high prevalence; to mobilize
international assistance agencies to provide non-refundable resources
for the fight against AIDS; to recognize AIDS as an economic problem
that affects the security of countries; and to accept that the HIV/AIDS
epidemic further affects the vicious circle of poverty. Immediate
action is needed to reduce the cost of medication and to consider the
reduction of foreign debt for the poor countries affected by the
epidemic. Economic, racial, political, cultural and religious
differences should be set aside. The epidemic does not respect anything
or anyone. It affects us all, and only a joint effort will allow us to
win the fight against this terrible scourge.
ANDREI GHERMAN, Minister for Health of Moldova: Moldova is
working at a national level in cooperation with international
organizations. We have developed a strategy through 2005 to prevent the
spread of the infection, especially in the young population, in the
blood supply, and among drug users. We became drawn into the epidemic
in the mid-1990s and have a relatively low level of infection, with
somewhat over 1,100 cases registered. Migration, prostitution
(including the trade in women for that purpose) and drug addiction are
major factors in the spread of the disease.
We fully support the report of the Secretary-General on the issue, along
with its recommendations. Measures at the international level are
following United Nations guidelines. With the support of international
organizations, we have implemented programmes to aid vulnerable groups
that are at risk. In this effort it is important to enhance
coordination. I am certain that this session will provide stimulus for
effective efforts at the national, regional and international levels.
YACOUB BIN YOUSSOUF AL-MASRUWAH, Deputy Minister of Health for
Preventive Medicine of Saudi Arabia: In the absence of an
effective vaccination or remedy for HIV/AIDS, humankind should
concentrate on fighting this health hazard through effective preventive
measures. Coordination and cooperation among all countries are
especially important in this regard.
My Government shares with other governments the responsibility of
stemming the spread of the epidemic. We are committed to international
recommendations and strategies that are in conformity with the teachings
of Islam. The Government of Saudi Arabia provides all preventive and
curative services to its citizens and residents. It closely follows
international efforts, including those of the United Nations.
My Government has set up a national anti-AIDS programme at the level of
the Ministry of Health and regional health directorates. A scientific
consulting committee has been established to assist the executive branch
in dealing with the technical aspects related to AIDS, such as selecting
the medications and laboratory activities for health providers and
national coordinators. It also plans awareness strategies. The
programme executes preventive measures and reviews and records lists of
cures discovered, ensures follow-up procedures for the patients and
their partners. On the local level, coordinators have been appointed to
combat AIDS around the country.
The reason for the low prevalence of AIDS in Saudi Arabia is adherence
to Islam, which prohibits sexual relations outside the confines of
marriage. In spite of this, an awareness campaign has begun in the
country, directed at all groups, especially the young, who are the
highest risk group. The programme emphasizes adherence to Islamic
teachings and explaining the dangers of the disease.
NATSAG UDVAL, Deputy Minister for Health of Mongolia: Even
though Mongolia has only two reported cases of HIV infection, we are all
in the same boat of risk. A sense of solidarity and compassion compels
us all to commit ourselves to a global response to the crisis. That
response requires a comprehensive, holistic approach that takes into
account a wide range of issues, from good governance to respect for
human and reproductive rights, along with leadership, community
empowerment, and multi-sector partnership.
Momentum in all these areas is building, but, in the developing world,
it needs to be supported by financial assistance. Contributions to the
Global Fund are therefore appreciated. As the Fund becomes operational,
it should be directed to strengthening the health systems of developing
countries, to enable risk reduction, preventive action and national
Mongolia is committed at the highest political levels to fight the
disease, as it is extremely vulnerable, with a struggling healthcare
system. Phases of a national strategic plan are being completed, along
with the implementation of an information and prevention strategy. The
Government is working closely, in these efforts, with non-governmental
organizations, the private sector and United Nations agencies, and is
building regional cooperation. To implement other necessary activities,
the Government needs further support from the international community
and civil society.
DATO'SERI SULEIMAN MOHAMAD, Deputy Minister of Health of Malaysia:
The special session signifies the urgent nature of the pandemic.
Malaysia has not been spared. More than 40,000 HIV/AIDS cases have been
reported in the country, and almost 4,000 have died. A multi-sectoral
approach to prevention, treatment, care and support is essential. For
instance, in the area of prevention the Government has limitations in
reaching vulnerable communities. In this regard, we support programmes
undertaken by NGOs and community-based groups. We encourage private
sector involvement both in providing financial support and in
incorporating HIV/AIDS education in the workplace. Several Government
agencies have ongoing programmes that address HIV/AIDS issues in their
own spheres of work.
Among the major barriers to prevention in Malaysia are gender
inequities, stigma and discrimination. As more women are becoming
infected, many by their own husbands, the need to empower them to
protect themselves is urgent. Recognizing the risk of mother-to-child
transmission, Malaysia has, since 1998, instituted a voluntary antenatal
screening programme and provides zidovudine to HIV-positive mothers and
their babies. The Government has also started to provide free
anti-retroviral therapy to the mothers as part of the continuum of
care. We recognize that more needs to be done to prevent discrimination
against vulnerable groups and people living with AIDS, and we support
non-governmental organization efforts in this area.
In terms of access to care, Malaysia is very concerned about the
disparities between the North and the South, largely due to the
prohibitive prices. Access to life-prolonging drugs should not be
restricted by trade and patent related issues. We hope that the
declaration of Commitment will redress this inequity. Although we are
in agreement with much of the declaration, Malaysia is disappointed at
the very low profile given to Asia and the Pacific, where 60 per cent of
the world's population lives. While recognizing the magnitude of the
African problem, the impeding epidemic in Asia and the Pacific will far
surpass anything previously seen, if nothing is done today. It is our
earnest hope that the proposed Global Health Fund will be appropriately
apportioned to ensure that this future disaster is averted.
ARNOLDO VICTOR CASTILLO, National Secretary for Health Care, Ministry of
Health, Argentina: It is indispensable that the magnitude of the
HIV/AIDS epidemic be made widely known so that not only policy makers
but the whole society is aware of it. We are convinced that the disease
will only be controlled if society as a whole works together in a common
direction. It is impossible to believe that governments alone can
successfully respond to the pandemic, or that isolated individuals and
organized groups from civil society will be able to do so as well. This
year my Government is developing a massive prevention campaign aimed at
informing and raising awareness among the whole population. Argentina
believes that as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned, prevention cannot be
separated from care, support and treatment. This is why we advocate
that infected people act as multiplying agents for prevention and care.
Our legislation guarantees free access to medication and integral care
for those who need it and those without medical insurance. Since 1997,
and thanks to the mobilization of civil society, the number of
beneficiaries has increased. This has led to a 20 per cent reduction in
the number of AIDS related deaths. The greater survival rate was
accompanied by a better quality of life -- the main goal of the
Government’s actions to address HIV/AIDS.
We are worried about the high vulnerability of young women and its
consequences on mother-to-child transmission. A better enforcement of
the current legislation led, in 2001, to a significant reduction of the
HIV incidence rate in children born from mothers who received AZT
treatment. These first achievements strengthen our commitment because
thousands of women, girls and young men are being infected. We must
increase our efforts to avoid this. Argentina hopes the commitment
reached today will be a step forward in the fight against the pandemic.
If every country acts more effectively against AIDS, within similar
frameworks for the defence of human rights and personal dignity, the
results will be effective.
AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji): By global standards, the number of HIV/AIDS
cases reported in Fiji may be insignificant. But, it is alarming for
our small population. Sixty-eight HIV/AIDS cases were confirmed between
1989 and 2000. More alarming is the high number of traditional sexually
transmitted infections, which may indicate an under-estimation of
unreported infection. Of the
68 reported cases, over 40 per cent are between the ages of 20 and 29.
Fiji’s Strategic Plan for combating HIV/AIDS was designed with a
rights-based approach, which ensures, without judgement, the rights of
individuals to information and free voluntary screening.
Most importantly, we can begin to win this battle if we successfully
reverse attitudes and behaviour, and instill a stronger sense of
belonging and community values. Stigmatization continues to prevent our
people from accessing the prevention and care services they need. It
undermines confidentiality, especially in small Pacific island countries
like Fiji, which also leads to underreporting.
Fiji seeks to promote a supportive and enabling environment for women,
children and other vulnerable groups, including men who have sex with
men and sex workers, by addressing underlying prejudices and
inequalities through community and multi-sectoral dialogue. Appropriate
policy and legislative reforms are also in order to strengthen the
privacy, confidentiality and non-discrimination of people living with
HIV/AIDS. Prevention programmes are being developed in consultation
with all stakeholders, particularly NGOs and civil society. Inroads
will need to be made in the corporate and private spheres, especially in
developing research and in resource mobilization.
ALISHER VOHIDOV (Uzbekistan): This special session is evidence
that the international community has finally recognized its global
character and the need to act in solidarity. While Uzbekistan has only
230 people infected with HIV/AIDS, our Government is determined to
resolve the problem by stabilizing the epidemiological situation and
preventing the spread of the disease, especially among the youth.
We have created a Programme on the Strategic Planning of National
Measures to Counter the AIDS Epidemic. We also aim to enact favourable
legislative conditions for vulnerable groups, and to ensure that medical
help as well as social support is available for HIV/AIDS patients.
Unfortunately, opportunities for anonymous treatment are still limited,
and there is a shortage of appropriate medication. Sex workers and
intravenous drug users are most at risk, and they have to be reached.
We are also trying to prevent in-hospital transmission of HIV and ensure
the safety of donor blood. Considerable assistance and support is
received from the United Nations system. This is particularly
significant at a time when the pandemic is beginning to spread in my
ASKOLTAN ATAEVA (Turkmenistan): The problem of AIDS, which has
been steadily growing in the last decades, has touched upon almost all
countries of the world and has become global. It is especially
worrisome that the disease has spread to the children, rendering this
vulnerable group the most wounded and helpless in the face of the
catastrophe of the twenty-first century.
Irrespective of how many cases are found in each particular country, the
danger of the spread of disease presents the same threat to everyone,
since there is no absolute barrier against it.
Management at the global and national levels, and the mobilization and
coordination of all means in the fight against the epidemic are
essential, and should be undertaken with adequate financing. We realize
serious socio-economic consequences of the spread of HIV/AIDS and fully
support the initiative of the Secretary-General to create the Global
Fund to fight AIDS.
Turkmenistan is among countries with a low level of AIDS, but measures
to prevent the spread of the disease are among the priorities of our
health programme. The efforts are focused on prevention aimed at the
risk groups. Within the framework of the joint project of the
Government of Turkmenistan and UNAIDS, the national capacities have
expanded, and an inter-agency committee has been established to confront
the problem. The national prevention strategy is being implemented
through integration of various State, civil and international efforts.
Measures are being taken to prevent drug addiction, improve access to
medical and consulting services, and to assist the population in forming
healthy life habits. An information and communications network on AIDS
prevention has been established, and training seminars are being carried
out to educate the people.
Although the multifaceted prevention programme being carried out in the
country is producing positive results, we understand that quickly
spreading drug abuse can seriously influence the situation. We are
counting on practical assistance from the United Nations in this
HUSSAIN SHIHAB (Maldives): The first case of HIV/AIDS was
confirmed in the country in 1991. Since then, a total of 11 cases have
been traced, of whom six have died. Although the number of cases may be
relatively small when compared to other countries, the potential threat
that looms over us cannot be overemphasized. The rapid advances in
economic and social development in our country, enabling our people to
travel and interact frequently with the rest of the world, have also
exposed us to a wide range of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
Moreover, the increased inflow of tourists and the growing presence of a
large number of expatriate workers in the country have contributed to
the exposure of locals to the risk factors. Another high-risk group
includes those locals working as seamen in various parts of the world.
However, a recent study cited drug-abuse-associated sexual behaviour
among youth as the single most obvious risk factor for infection in the
Several measures have been taken by the Government to prevent and
control the spread of the disease. A National AIDS Council and a
National AIDS Control Programme were established in 1987 to facilitate
full commitment in preventing and controlling the disease. Steps being
taken include awareness programmes conducted for health workers, to
enable them to generate accurate information on HIV/AIDS and on training
of peer educators at schools. Distribution and availability of condoms
at all health facilities and pharmacies are also carried out as a major
JACKEO RELANG (Marshall Islands): While we respect each other’s
beliefs, traditions and other concerns, the destructive force of
HIV/AIDS respects no national borders. Given the limited resources of
the Marshall Islands, the lack of adequate infrastructure, the high
percentage of vulnerable youth and the high cost of drugs, one case of
HIV/AIDS is one too many. The disease could have a devastating impact
on our sustainable economic development.
Traditional cultural barriers make it difficult to talk openly about
such issues as sexual behaviour. However, we must be ready to implement
prevention and health services and engage all segments of our society in
efforts to prevent the disease from gaining a foothold in our country
and to reduce vulnerability factors. In recent years, we have focused
on surveillance systems, infectious diseases, training of clinical staff
and awareness programmes, as well as plans to reduce the socio-economic
impact of HIV/AIDS.
Our efforts have been carried out in partnership with the specialized
agencies of the United Nations, the United States and Japan. The
establishment of a global fund is also most welcome, and we have
confidence that it will be effectively utilized through partnership and
collaborative efforts. The Marshall Islands stands committed to
contributing to global efforts to fight the pandemic, and welcomes the
adoption of an effective declaration during this special session.
SELIM TADMOURY (Lebanon): The extremely negative impact of
HIV/AIDS on the development of countries, particularly those in
sub-Saharan Africa, must be kept in mind. The first case of
HIV/AIDS in Lebanon was reported in 1984 and we have over 600 cases up
till now. The first reported case drew the attention of the
Government to the need to adopt a national prevention and treatment
approach, which then led to the establishment of a national body to
address AIDS. Among the primary tasks of that body is prevention,
and the provision of the necessary means to combat the disease.
Our Government assumes all costs associated with the disease. The
problem we are facing at the present time is the lack of adequate
resources to provide hundreds of thousands of migrant workers with AIDS
tests. We call for greater support for such efforts.
Lebanon appreciates the efforts of the Secretary-General to combat the
epidemic, and attaches the utmost importance to devising an effective
strategy to tackle it. We consider that the establishment of the Global
Fund to mobilize between $7 and 10 billion is crucial to combat AIDS in
poor countries, which are in need of support. At the same time, we must
allow these countries the necessary drugs at a modest cost. Today, we
have the opportunity to prove our solidarity as peoples and States to
fight the greatest tragedy to have affected mankind.
ALLIEU IBRAHIM KANU (Sierra Leone): Although numerous studies to
determine the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS situation in Sierra Leone have
been inconclusive, there has definitely been an increase in its
prevalence. Many of the predisposing factors exist, all as a result of
the 10 year-long war -- including the breakdown of civil society,
massive displacement and the presence of troops from many countries
where the disease has already reached epidemic proportions.
Economic and socio-cultural characteristics are also factors, such as
poverty and the concentration of wealth, gender inequalities and
traditional practices that include skin piercing and contact with
blood. Efforts so far, in partnership with the World Bank, United
Nations agencies and other stakeholders, focus on containing or reducing
the epidemic, mitigating its effects and increasing access to prevention
services, as well as care and support for those already infected and
otherwise affected. Extensive structures have also been created in the
national Government to pursue those goals.
In addition to breaking the poverty cycle, a major breakthrough is
needed in treatment of HIV/AIDS. Even if they were provided free, the
cost of administering existing drug cocktails would be prohibitive in
rural Africa. What is needed is an easily administered vaccine. It is
imperative to promote clinical trials of such drugs. The Global Fund is
also essential and Sierra Leone, even though its economy has been
devastated, will make a contribution symbolic of our strong
determination to control this disease.
ATOKI ILEKA (Democratic Republic of the Congo): My country was
one of the first African countries to recognize, in 1983, the reality of
HIV/AIDS. We have therefore cooperated with international scientific
research to contribute to a better knowledge of this new epidemic. But
the fight against the disease has been severely hampered by armed
conflict, and other factors have allowed infection rates to increase to
over 5 per cent of the population, with great disparities between rural
and urban areas and various provinces. For example, the rate has
increased from 4 per cent to 20 per cent in Goma. 730,000 children in
the country have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.
The full picture in my country is even more alarming than those figures
would suggest. Conditions of life, the continuing war, and the
occupation by foreign troops is exacerbating the situation. There is
systematic rape of women and young girls and evidence of the use of
HIV-positive soldiers as instruments of war.
Despite such obstacles, the DRC has developed, with its international
partners, strategies for effective response to the epidemic. We would
like to take advantage of all approaches and participate in partnerships
at all levels. Resources must be mobilized, especially to increase
health spending, and we welcome the establishment of the Global Fund for
this purpose. We must take up the challenges together, so that there
will be rigorous implementation of the points of the Declaration of
Commitment. My Government supports it without reservation.
ARCHBISHOP JAVIER LOZANO BARRAGÁN, President of the Pontifical Council
for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, Observer for the Holy
See, on behalf of His Holiness Pope John Paul II: Two responses are
required in the face of this evil scourge -- prevention and cure.
Prevention of this disease calls for an honest assessment of its real
nature as a reality which affects the whole person. In many cases,
HIV/AIDS also implies problems of existential values; it is a true
pathology of the spirit which harms not only the body but the whole
person, interpersonal relationships and social life, and is often
accompanied by a crisis of moral values.
Regarding the sexual transmission of the disease, the best and most
effective prevention is training in the authentic values of life, love
and sexuality. No one can deny that sexual license increases the danger
of contracting the disease. It is in this context that the values of
matrimonial fidelity, chastity and abstinence can better be understood.
Prevention, and the education which fosters it, are realized in
respecting human dignity and the
person's transcendent destiny, and in excluding campaigns associated
with models of behaviour that destroy life and spread the evil in
In many countries it is impossible to care for infected people due to
the high cost of patented medicines. The Pope reminds us that the
Church has consistently taught that there is a 'social mortgage' on all
private property, and that this concept must also be applied to
'intellectual property'. The law of profit alone cannot be applied to
essential elements in the fight against hunger, disease and poverty.
The Pope also invites industrialized countries to avoid any semblance of
colonialism and assist needy nations in their campaigns to combat AIDS.
To secure greater effectiveness in the fight against the disease, the
Holy See also supports plans for global coordination in combating the
epidemic and encourages governments to make maximum use of the power and
authority of the State in responding to HIV/AIDS.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine: Poverty,
discrimination, stigma, crises and conflict are among the most prominent
factors which contribute to the exacerbation of the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Thus, these factors should be addressed in a serious and thorough
manner. It is clear that respect for human rights and for international
humanitarian law would contribute significantly to promoting conditions
for reducing vulnerability to HIV/AIDS within societies.
A strong commitment with appropriate and urgent action is required to
combat and prevent the fast spread of the epidemic. The development of
effective preventive strategies and an increase in the availability of
resources, whether human, medical, financial or technical, is needed.
In Palestine, we have registered a relatively small number of HIV
cases. Nevertheless, we have been giving the necessary attention in
dealing with this serious disease. The Palestinian Ministry of Health
has instituted policies and measures to combat and prevent the spread of
the virus, including treatment consisting of full free care for the
sick. In the area of preventive measures, the Ministry has conducted
health education and has created awareness in schools, universities,
labs and dental clinics as well as for doctors working in both the
governmental and private sectors.