Top United Nations officials today issued a call to action to end AIDS, stressing the need for a broad partnership among governments, the private sector and civil society to combat an epidemic that is still wreaking havoc 30 years after the first case was reported.
We have reached a critical moment in time, " General Assembly President Joseph Deiss said at the start of the High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, which brings together some 30 heads of State and government, along with senior officials, representatives of international organizations, civil society and people living with HIV.
This high-level meeting is a unique opportunity to reiterate our collective commitment and to step up our campaign against AIDS, " he stated.
Member States are expected to adopt a new declaration at the end of the three-day meeting that will reaffirm current commitments and commit to actions which will shape the future of the AIDS response 30 years into the epidemic and 10 years since the Assembly`s Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001.
During the past three decades, more than 60 million people have been infected, at least 25 million people have died and more than 16 million children have been orphaned by AIDS.
I believe that if we are to succeed, it is essential for our actions to be based on a broad partnership in which governments, the private sector and civil society join forces and, together, play a greater governance role in efforts to combat the virus, " said Mr. Deiss.
He noted that the stigmatization of and discrimination against persons living with the virus and vulnerable groups far too often continue to present a major obstacle to any open debate on AIDS-related issues and hinder progress.
Universal access implies social justice and social inclusion. Persons living with the virus must be stakeholders in every aspect of our effort. Their experiences and their stories are essential in developing an effective strategy for combating the epidemic. "
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that from its birth, the campaign against AIDS was much more than a battle against disease.
It was a cry for human rights. It was a call for gender equality. It was a fight to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. And it was a demand for the equal treatment of all people, " he told the meeting.
He added that today`s meeting is a call to action for all partners to come together in global solidarity as never before. That is the only way to truly provide universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care by 2015, " he said.
It is also necessary to lower costs and deliver better programmes; commit to accountability; ensure that HIV responses promote the health, human rights, security and dignity of women and girls; and trigger a prevention revolution, " harnessing the power of youth and new communications technology to reach the entire world.
If we take these five steps, we can stop AIDS. We can end the fear. We can stop the suffering and death it brings. We can get to an AIDS-free world. "
The Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Michel SidibÃ©, highlighted the collective achievements of the international community over the past 30 years while also noting that now is not the time to be complacent.
AIDS remains a critical challenge of our era, " he said, stressing the need to agree on a transformational " agenda that will end the epidemic and achieve the common vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
This vision will become a reality, said Mr. SidibÃ©, if the world can revolutionize HIV prevention and mobilize young people as agents of change; scale up universal access to treatment and services; break the trajectory of treatment costs; promote innovation, technology transfer and country ownership; stop violence against women and girls; and open a frank discussion about intergenerational sex and concurrent partnership.
Turning the vision into reality will also require that the vulnerable populations most affected by the epidemic " migrants, people who inject drugs, sex workers, and men who have sex with men " do not face discrimination and have access to life-saving services, he added.