Press Releases

Note to Correspondents
Embargoed until 26 April 2001
08:00 h GMT

Note No 137
25 April 2001

UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN CALLS
FOR LARGE-SCALE MOBILIZATION IN FIGHT AGAINST AIDS

Key Priorities and Funding Objectives
Are Set out in Speech to OAU Summit on AIDS


ABUJA, Nigeria, 26 April -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for a major new global campaign in the fight against HIV/AIDS – and a massive mobilization of new funding – in a statement he delivered here today to the African Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases.

Speaking to African leaders, the Secretary-General stated that a "war chest" of US$ 7 to 10 billion was needed annually, over an extended period of time, to wage an effective global campaign against AIDS, and proposed the creation of a new Global Fund dedicated to the battle against HIV/AIDS and other infections diseases. Current spending on AIDS in developing countries totals around $1 billion annually.

The Secretary-General issued a call to donors that by the time of the United Nations Special Session on HIV/AIDS – to be held 25-27 June 2001 in New York – firm commitments should be made to meet this massive mobilization. At the Special Session, governments are expected to commit to a political declaration to fight HIV/AIDS.

The plight of Africa has caught the attention, and the conscience, of the world, the Secretary-General stated, and Africa is no longer being left to face the disaster of AIDS alone. Some 25.3 million Africans are living with HIV, accounting for nearly 70 percent of infected adults and children worldwide.

Calling the battle against AIDS his "personal priority", the Secretary-General outlined five priority areas for the global campaign:

Preventing further spread of the epidemic, especially by giving young people the knowledge and power to protect themselves. Large-scale awareness campaigns must be mounted, and access provided to voluntary counselling, testing and, when appropriate, condoms. About a third of the 36 million people living with HIV/AIDS are aged 15-24, and half of the 5 million people infected last year were under 25.

Reducing HIV transmission from mother to child, which he called "the cruellest, most unjust infections of all". All mothers must be able to find out whether they are HIV-positive, and those who are must have access to short-term anti-retroviral therapy, which has been shown to reduce mother-to-child transmission by up to half. In the year 2000 alone, some 600,000 children worldwide acquired HIV, the vast majority in this way.

Ensuring that care and treatment is within reach of all. The Secretary-General noted, based on his recent meeting with leaders of six of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, that they are now ready to sell life-saving drugs to developing countries at greatly reduced prices. Some 95% of the world’s 36 million HIV-infected people live in developing countries, and fewer than 25,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa currently have access to anti-retroviral therapy. Access to affordable HIV-related drugs, however, is only one part of the comprehensive HIV care package, which includes voluntary counseling and testing, home and community-based care, and simple treatments for opportunistic infections.

Delivering scientific breakthroughs. Finding a cure and vaccine for HIV/AIDS must be given increased priority in scientific budgets.

Protecting those made most vulnerable by the epidemic, especially orphans. Help must be provided to the estimated 13 million children – most of them in sub-Saharan Africa -- who have lost their mother or both parents to AIDS.

To achieve these five goals, the Secretary-General called on the African heads assembled to take the lead in this campaign. Specifically, he called on them to break the wall of silence and embarrassment that surrounds the AIDS issue in many African societies, to remove the discrimination and stigma attached to those infected, and to mobilize more of their own domestic budgets against the pandemic. He stated that local communities and those living with HIV/AIDS must be involved in the struggle against it, and that women must be empowered in order to protect themselves and their children against infection.

Building stronger healthcare systems is an absolutely essential step often overlooked in the budgets of governments and development agencies, the Secretary-General stated. Without improved healthcare, cheaper anti-retroviral drugs may even do more harm than good, if life-threatening side effects are not addressed, or if therapy is interrupted, leading to drug-resistant forms of HIV.

The Summit — convened by the Organization of African Unity and hosted by Nigeria — is taking place on 26-27 April, preceded by ministerial and technical meetings on 24-25 April. In addition to African leaders, participants include heads of United Nations agencies and private sector executives, as well as hands-on AIDS workers and experts.

Media contacts:

Fred Eckhard
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
New York office: (+1 212) 963 7160, e-mail: eckhard@un.org

Anne Winter, UNAIDS Geneva
tel: (+41 22) 791 4577, e-mail: wintera@unaids.org

Fatoumata Sow, UNAIDS, in Abuja
tel: (234-9) 413 5671

Pragati Pascale, UN Department of Public Information, New York
tel: (+1 212) 963 6870, e-mail: pascale@un.org

Peter Da Costa, ECA, Addis Ababa
e-mail: pdacosta@uneca.org; or dacosta@igc.org (22-28 April, in Abuja)

On the Internet:
www.un.org/News
, www.unaids.org, www.un.org/ga/aids




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For Media – Not an official record
Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information