With 10 new HIV/AIDS infections occurring every minute, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned today that action is still far short of what is needed and that at the current rate of progress none of the goals set by the General Assembly’s 2001 session on the pandemic will be reached by the target date of 2005.
“Clearly, we must work even harder to match our commitment with the necessary resources and action,” Mr. Annan said in a message marking World AIDS Day, observed each year on 1 December. “We cannot claim that competing challenges are more important, or more urgent. We must keep AIDS at the top of our political and practical agenda.”
Referring to the General Assembly’s adoption in 2001 of the Declaration of Commitment, a set of specific, time-bound targets for fighting the epidemic, he declared: “Today, we have the commitment. Our resources are increasing. But the action is still far short of what is needed.”
He noted significant new funding from governments and through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but he added: “We have failed to reach several of the Declaration’s targets set for this year. Even more important, we are not on track to begin reducing the scale and impact of the epidemic by the target year of 2005.
“By then, we should have cut by a quarter the number of young people infected with HIV in the worst-affected countries; we should have halved the rate at which infants become infected; and we should have comprehensive care programmes in place everywhere. At the current rate, we will not achieve any of those targets by 2005,” he added.
Stressing the need to speak openly about AIDS, Mr. Annan declared: “No progress will be achieved by being timid, refusing to face unpleasant facts, or prejudging our fellow human beings – still less by stigmatizing people living with HIV/AIDS. Let no one imagine that we can protect ourselves by building barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ In the ruthless world of AIDS, there is no us and them. And in that world, silence is death.
“On this World AIDS Day, I urge you to join me in speaking up loud and clear about HIV/AIDS,” he concluded. “Join me in tearing down the walls of silence, stigma and discrimination that surround the epidemic. Join me, because the fight against HIV/AIDS begins with you.”