Ban: Progress made towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment

Accra- Ghana (PANA) -- The world has made "important achievements" in its quest t o obtain universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010 demonstrating what can be done where there is sufficient political will, Secreta r y-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly on Tuesday.
Women and children are benefiting especially, he said, in an address to the star t of the Assembly's two-day high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS, where he presented h i s 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 program m es, Mr Ban said in a statement issued by the UN Information Centre in Accra.
At least three million people now have access to anti-retroviral treatment in po or or middle-income countries.
The report indicates how investments made over the past 10 years – which include US$10 billion last year alone – are starting to bear fruit, with decreases in b o th new infections and total deaths during the past decade.
However, Mr Ban warned in his speech that too many people are still becoming new ly infected, dying from the disease or not receiving anti-retroviral treatment d e spite being in urgent need.
Last year, for example, "there were twice as many people in need of anti-retrovi ral treatment and going without, as there were receiving it," he said.
"This sit u ation is unacceptable.
" He urged world leaders "to build on what we have started, bridge the gaps we kno w 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 Millenni um Development Goals (MDGs), the anti-poverty targets which world leaders have a g reed to try to meet by 2015.
But the Secretary-General stressed that the fight against the epidemic "is a pre requisite for reaching almost all the others," including those to reduce child m o rtality, improve maternal health, curb the spread of malaria and tuberculosis, c u t 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 r e sponse in which the disease was treated as both an immediate crisis and a long-w a ve event.
"This is our best opportunity to reach universal access.
We cannot miss this cha nce," 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 afforda ble "to all people, whoever they are, whatever their lifestyle," and an urgent i n crease in HIV prevention projects, such as possible vaccines and microbicides.
Stigma and discrimination around AIDS remain as strong as ever, he added, callin g on all countries to drop entry restrictions to people simply because they are l iving with HIV.
Piot also noted the persistence of gender inequality and hom o phobia in relation to the disease.
"AIDS may be one of the defining issues of our time – but it is clearly now a pr oblem with a solution.
Equally clear, however, is the fact that achieving that s o lution will take time and that we've still only just started what's going to be a long, tough job.

11 june 2008 20:05:00

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