Continued International Investment, Decreased Discrimination Key To Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Says U.N. Secretary-General

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon during a General Assembly meeting Tuesday urged governments not to cut aid for the international fight against HIV/AIDS, the AP/Washington Post reports. Even as Ban “called for ‘bold action’ not only to increase funding but also to break down social barriers to achieve the goal set by world leaders in 2006 of universal access to comprehensive HIV prevention services, treatment, care and support by 2010,” he and other speakers at the meeting “reviewing progress and challenges in the battle against AIDS indicated that it will be exceedingly difficult – if not impossible – to reach the goal” (Lederer, AP/Washington Post, 6/16).

During the meeting, Ban presented a report (pdf) on the progress of HIV/AIDS commitments, that showed “achieving national universal access targets by 2010 will require an estimated annual outlay of $25 billion within two years,” Xinhua reports. “Now is not the time to falter,” Ban said. “The economic crisis should not be an excuse to abandon commitments – it should be an impetus to make the right investments that will yield benefits for generations to come” (Xinhua, 6/16).

Ban highlighted positive indicators from his report, including the results of a survey of 14 African countries that showed a drop in the percentage of pregnant women who are HIV-positive (AP/Washington Post, 6/16); an increase in funding for HIV/AIDS programs in middle- and low-income countries, from $11.3 billion in 2007 to $13.7 billion in 2008 (UNAIDS release, 6/16); and that “the provision of antiretroviral drugs increased, contributing to the first decline in the number of annual AIDS deaths since the epidemic was first recognized nearly 30 years ago,” according to the AP/Washington Post.

“Yet, there are still nearly five new infections for every two people put on treatment,” Ban said. The AP/Washington Post writes, “General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann cited other shortcomings: 29 million people who need HIV treatment still lack medication, roughly two out of three HIV-positive pregnant women don’t receive services to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and an estimated 370,000 children under the age of 15 became infected with HIV in 2007 and are less likely than adults to receive treatment.”

“Even as we see signs of cutbacks in AIDS funding in many countries, we must remind governments and the international community that the world has the resources to mount the kind of AIDS response to which we have committed. If we allow cuts now, we will face increased costs and great human suffering in the future,” d’Escoto said (Lederer, AP/Washington Post, 6/16).

“The Secretary-General’s report also highlights that despite the many commitments made by member states to protect the rights of people living with HIV and people vulnerable to HIV infection, many countries have laws and policies that are inconsistent with the commitments and result in reduced access to essential HIV services and commodities,” according to UNAIDS (UNAIDS release, 6/16).

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