For information only - not an official document.
    24 October 2000
 Secretary-General, Presenting Awards to HIV/AIDS Activists, Calls
For Redoubled Global Efforts to Halt Spread of Disease

NEW YORK, 23 October (UN Headquarters) --  This is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan this evening at a ceremony in the General Assembly Hall, under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to present the annual “Race against Poverty” awards, which went this year to four activists for action against HIV/AIDS.

I am very pleased to welcome you all here.  The Race against Poverty Awards Ceremony has become an important tradition for the United Nations family.  This year, it is particularly significant.  At the Millennium Summit, world leaders pledged renewed resolve in the global fight against poverty.  The challenge now is to do all we can to keep the momentum going and to translate that resolve into action.  

It is also especially appropriate that with this year’s awards, we highlight the link between poverty and HIV/AIDS.  In an increasing number of countries, AIDS is the leading obstacle to overcoming poverty.  These countries are carrying the multiple burden of AIDS.  They are trying to prevent the further spread of the virus, to cope with the extensive loss of human life and to manage potentially catastrophic social and economic losses all at the same time.

It is clear that to reach our goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015, we must work as decisively towards our other Millennium goal of halting the spread of AIDS by the same year.  That means we must redouble our efforts for prevention everywhere.  We must tear down what remains of the wall of silence that surrounds this dreadful disease.  For in the war against AIDS, silence is as much our enemy as the virus itself. 

Most African governments have now understood that official recognition of the AIDS epidemic is the first step towards dealing with it.  They are speaking out, making a real effort to involve the whole of society in the struggle.  In Uganda, for example -- one of the first countries to be devastated by AIDS -- the Government has fought back with a campaign of public education so relentless that Ugandans call it "the big noise".

But although Africa has been hit hardest so far, AIDS is a worldwide problem.  There are many countries outside Africa, especially in Asia and Eastern Europe, where it is spreading at an alarming rate -- and where the wall of silence is still standing in the way of our struggle.  And so we want to hear the big noise everywhere, in every country, at every level.  We want to make every man, woman and child understand that facing up to AIDS is a point of honour, not a source of shame.

To show us the way there, we need heroes and role models.  We need people like the four individuals from four different continents whom we honour today.  People who have the courage and determination to tell the truth, even when many around them may not want to hear it.  People who remind us that we are not powerless against this epidemic.  People who know that this fight is about taking responsibility not just for ourselves, but for the future of our communities.

We can all do our share to break the silence -- to bring closer the day when every person in every nation knows and acts on the truth about this disease.  I am here today to urge all those who are listening -- whatever your profession, whatever your generation, wherever you come from -- to speak up and shatter the wall of silence. I am here to ask you, on behalf of the United Nations, to join us in making the big noise against AIDS.  Let us start today.

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