UN chief calls for strengthened world efforts in global AIDS fight

09:19, December 02, 2010      

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called for strengthened world efforts in fighting HIV/AIDS, including ensuring universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, after significant progress has been made over the past three decades.

"Our common goal is clear: universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. We must also work to make the AIDS response sustainable," the secretary-general said in his message to mark World AIDS Day, observed annually on Dec. 1.

"Three decades into this crisis, let us set our sights on achieving the 'three zeros' -- zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. On this World AIDS Day, let us pledge to work together to realize this vision for all of the world's people," he said.

Despite the untold suffering and death that AIDS had visited upon mankind, the global community had united with passion to take action and save lives, Ban said.

"Fewer people are becoming infected with HIV. Millions of people have gained access to HIV treatment. More women are now able to prevent their babies from becoming infected with HIV," the secretary-general said. "Travel restrictions for people living with HIV are being lifted by many countries, as stigma gives way -- still too slowly -- to compassion and recognition of human rights. "

He called for stronger commitment to efforts that enabled the world to reach the first part of Millennium Development Goal 6 -- halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV. "We must continue to chart a new and bold path ahead," Ban said.

World AIDS Day is celebrated on Dec. 1 each year around the world. It has become one of the most recognized international health days and a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on, and celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.

Also on Wednesday, other top United Nations officials stressed the importance of preventing new infections and deaths.

Michel Sidibe, the executive director of the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), noted that the number of new HIV infections and deaths have been reduced by nearly 20 percent, but lamented that some 30 million people had lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses over the past three decades, while an estimated 10 million people are currently awaiting treatment.

"Our hard-won gains are fragile -- so our commitment to the AIDS response must remain strong," Sidibe said in his message.

"With your commitment and that of UNAIDS and the UN family, we are changing the course of the AIDS epidemic. I have called for the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission by 2015," he added, stressing that an "AIDS-free generation is possible in our lifetime."

UNAIDS took the lead on World AIDS Day campaigning from its creation until 2004. From 2004 onwards the World AIDS Campaign's Global Steering Committee began selecting a theme for World AIDS Day in consultation with civil society, organizations and government agencies involved in the AIDS response.

The latest UNAIDS report released last week shows that an estimated 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV, nearly 20 percent fewer than the 3.1 million people infected in 1999. In 2009, 1.8 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses, nearly one-fifth lower than the 2.1 million people who died in 2004.

According to the report, from 2001 to 2009, the rate of new HIV infections stabilized or decreased by more than 25 percent in at least 56 countries around the world, including 34 countries in sub- Saharan Africa.

Of the five countries with the largest epidemics in the region, four countries -- Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- have reduced rates of new HIV infections by more than 25 percent, while Nigeria's epidemic has stabilized.

Margaret Chan, the director-general of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), called in her message for the protection of the human rights of those living with HIV/AIDS and urged all sectors to combat discrimination against those infected.

"Working with people living with HIV is critical for an effective HIV response and Member States need to be mindful of the commitments made in the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS to promote better legal and social environments for people to access HIV testing, prevention and treatment," Chan said.

She stressed that those affected by the disease are entitled to social services, including education, housing, social security and even asylum.

"Ensuring the rights of people living with HIV is good public health practice, by improving the health and well-being of those affected and by making prevention efforts more effective," she said.

"A wide range of countries have enacted legislation to prevent discrimination against people living with HIV. However, in many cases, there is poor enforcements of such laws and stigmatization of people living with HIV and most-at-risk populations persist," she added.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:张茜)

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