UN chief urges nations to continue fight against HIV/AIDS

New York, US (PANA) - The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged governments not to relent in their efforts to roll back the HIV/AIDS pandemic, stressing the need to redouble their efforts to prevent new infections and deaths.

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

He stated: “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,” the secretary-general noted.

He pointed out that 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.

According to him: "Fewer people are becoming infected with HIV, while millions of people have gained access to HIV treatment. More women are now able to prevent their babies from becoming infected with HIV."

The UN chief said that, "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."

Ban, however, 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, adding "we must continue to chart a new and bold path ahead.”

On his part, Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), noted that the number of new HIV infections and deaths have been reduced by nearly 20 per cent.

Sidibe, however, 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,” he said in his message, adding that "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 stated.

The UNAIDS chief also added that an "AIDS-free generation is possible in our lifetime".

The latest UNAIDS report released last week showed that an estimated 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV, nearly 20 per cent fewer than the 3.1 million people infected in 1999.

It said that 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 per cent in no fewer than 56 countries around the world, including 34 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Four of the five countries with the largest epidemics in the region, namely Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe have reduced rates of new HIV infections by more than 25 per cent, while Nigeria’s epidemic has stabilized.
-0- PANA AA/BOS 1Dec2010

01 december 2010 18:07:28




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