Press Releases

    SG/SM/8256
    AIDS/41
    4 June 2002

    PARTNERSHIP, RESOURCES, ACTION BY YOUNG NEEDED IN AIDS FIGHT, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL TO UKRAINE AIDS COMMISSION

    NEW YORK, 3 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the partnership meeting with the Inter-Ministerial AIDS Commission of Ukraine in Kiev on 3 June:

    I am indeed honored by this opportunity to meet with all of you today. This partnership meeting testifies to your country’s high level of commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS. And it is an example of the kind of wide-ranging response we need to succeed in that fight.

    Over the past two decades, AIDS has spread to every corner of the earth. The fight against this epidemic has become one of the great challenges of our time. It is one of the top priorities of the United Nations and for me personally as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

    If we are to reach the Millennium Development Goal of halting the spread of AIDS by the year 2015, there is literally no time to lose. We have to really work very, very hard.

    Here in the Ukraine, as you heard from the Minister, HIV/AIDS has spread at an alarming rate over the past decade. As everywhere else in the world, it is young people -- the future of society -- who are the most affected.

    That means you have a very large number of people needing care, and also a task of desperate urgency -– to halt the spread of this disease.

    I commend Ukraine’s leadership in rising to that challenge. The fact that the President has declared 2002 the year of the fight against AIDS should send a powerful message to the entire society -- both within this country, and beyond.

    And I think on this issue leadership is essential. And whenever I meet leaders I tell them and encourage them to take the lead and to speak up, reminding them that silence is death. And I am really happy that many, many leaders are taking up this fight around the world.

    The task before you now is to make that commitment take hold in every sector and at every level of society. It is to ensure that every individual -- and especially every young individual -- faces up to AIDS and resolves to play his or her part in the struggle against it. It is to enable society as a whole to rally around a plan to give hope to those already infected, by attacking stigma and discrimination, and by providing access to care to all who need it.

    This will require three fundamental components: partnership, resources and action by young people as champions for change.

    Successful responses to AIDS have taught us a profound lesson: change cannot happen through just one sector acting alone. Change comes when all sectors working together in partnership make a determined effort to win the battle.

    Such a partnership must involve every part of government –- from health to education to the armed forces. It must engage business in all aspects of the struggle -- from protecting the workforce to prevention in the wider community. It must empower civil society -- from local organizations to church groups to people living with HIV/AIDS themselves.

    The United Nations family in Ukraine is committed to helping you promote such a broad approach -- for example, through the "ACT NOW" framework, which spans a range of activities and actors.

    We also need a broad response. And that broad response requires what we have seen elsewhere. I called for a global ‘war chest’ to fight against AIDS and other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria. Today, the Global Fund is already operational and as you heard from the Minister Ukraine has been given an allocation from the fund.

    Allow me to congratulate Ukraine on being among the recipients of the first round of grants announced by the Fund a few weeks ago. The money allocated will, I trust, help bring about an expansion, both in the reach of prevention efforts, and in the comprehensive care which today reaches only a handful of Ukrainians living with HIV. Your Government’s recent agreement with pharmaceutical companies on lower prices for HIV drugs will also be of significant help in expanding access to care.

    Resources from the Global Fund will provide only part of the money needed. Of course, additional funds must come from your own national budget and from the private sector and other partners as well as directly from the United Nations, foundations and other international sources.

    The more you show yourselves committed to an effective response, the better your chances of persuading outsiders that your efforts are worth supporting.

    And that brings me to the third and vital component: investing in young people. Being a young person anywhere is challenging enough. Being young in a young democracy is more challenging still.

    Over the past decade, your country has undergone an exceptional social and economic transformation. This decade of transition is now starting to bear fruit, in terms of economic growth and prosperity. Young people should be able to use the benefits of that process to get the best possible start in life.

    But we know from experience that the very environment of transition -- changing social structures, movements of people, and new patterns of behaviour -- creates an ideal ground for the spread of the HIV virus. In this environment, it is young people, it is young who are more likely to be infected, and to pass on the virus to others -- whether through unsafe sex or through injecting drug use.

    What makes many of them especially vulnerable is their lack of awareness. Research has shown that fewer than one in ten girls in Ukraine know how to avoid becoming infected with HIV. That is a very alarming statistic.

    But, by the same token, young people are also best placed to halt the spread of the epidemic, and start reducing it. Every young person -- male and female -- can help do this if they know all the ways to protect themselves against the virus, preferably before they become sexually active.

    And that is why it is so important that your efforts to educate young people -- in and out of school -- should be developed further, across the whole country. The same is true for programmes to limit the spread through injecting drug use, and to dissuade young people from such drug use in future. It means helping the whole country understand that speaking up about AIDS is a point of honour, not a point of shame.

    It means explaining to everyone that stigmatizing high-risk groups, and imagining that everyone else is safe from infection, is both morally and factually wrong. No one should 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.

    As leaders in your respective fields, you can and must show the way by example. This meeting today shows that you are ready to make that commitment. The United Nations family will continue to support you on every step of your journey.

    Duzhe dyakuyu. Thank you very much.

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