United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on the international community to drastically step up its battle against HIV/AIDS if there is to be any hope of starting to reduce the scale and impact of the epidemic by 2005, as pledged in the Declaration of Commitment adopted two years ago.
Addressing the plenary session of the UN General Assembly at the start of a daylong High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, Mr. Annan said the follow-up report on the declaration, though showing progress, "makes for sober reading" in that several of this year's goals have been missed.
"Even more important, we are not on track to begin reducing the scale and impact of the epidemic by 2005," Mr. Annan declared. "By that date, we should have cut by a quarter the number of young people infected with HIV in the worst-affected nations; we should have halved the rate at which infants contract HIV; and we should have comprehensive care programmes in place.
"On this, the report is crystal clear: at the current rate of progress, we will not achieve any of those targets by 2005," he added.
Outlining a litany of shortcomings, he noted that a third of all countries still had no policies to ensure that women had access to prevention and care, even though women now account for half of those infected worldwide; more than a third of heavily affected countries still have no strategies in place for looking after the increasing number of AIDS orphans; and fully two-thirds of all countries fail to provide legal protection against discrimination for the groups that are most vulnerable to HIV.
Moreover, only one in nine people wanting to know their HIV status has access to testing, and in sub-Saharan Africa, only one in 16, and only one in 20 pregnant women receiving antenatal care has access to services that could help her avoid transmitting HIV to her baby, or to treatment that could prolong her life.
"If we are to stand any chance of meeting the 2005 targets, these ratios will have to be improved drastically," Mr. Annan declared.
He mentioned the progress, too: significant new resources pledged both by individual Member States and through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has now committed $1.5 billion to 93 countries; annual spending this year projected to reach $4.7 billion.
"Yet we are still only half way to the $10 billion a year that is needed by 2005. The resources available must continue to increase - through the Global Fund, but also through all other efforts, including those of national governments in heavily affected countries," he said.
"We have come a long way, but not far enough. Clearly, we will have to work harder to ensure that our commitment is matched by the necessary resources and action. We cannot claim that competing challenges are more important, or more urgent. We cannot accept that 'something else came up' that forced us to place AIDS on the back burner. Something else will always come up," he added.