Until 30 April 2001, 12:55 pm EST
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Commitments to Global Fund are Urged in Speech to Foundations

New York, 30 April -- Continuing his drive to spur a large-scale mobilization against AIDS, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan took his appeal to donors in an address to the Council on Foundations today in Philadelphia.

"The world has the resources to defeat this epidemic, if it really wants to," the Secretary-General told representatives from some 1,800 US philanthropic foundations. To wage an effective global campaign against AIDS, he estimated that a "war chest" of US$ 7 to 10 billion was needed annually – less than the foundations at the meeting give away each year. Current spending on AIDS in developing countries totals around US$ 1 billion annually.

Urging the foundations to join with Governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector in a strategic partnership against AIDS, he called on them collectively to launch a worldwide response to the crisis at the United Nations Special Session on HIV/AIDS, to be held on 25-27 June 2001 in New York. By that point, he hoped that there would be firm commitments on funding to meet the massive mobilization. At the Special Session, governments are expected to commit to a political declaration to fight HIV/AIDS.

The Secretary-General reiterated his proposal to create a Global Fund, to channel funds to the battle against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. He added that the Fund must be able to deliver money quickly where it is most needed and each country or community receiving support would have to show that it is actually bringing results to those most at risk. The Fund must be governed by open and transparent decision-making, he said, and it should support a range of organizations working to fight the epidemic and help those affected, within a national framework.

The Secretary-General’s appeal in Philadelphia follows a speech on 26 April to leaders gathered at the African Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases, in Abuja, Nigeria. There the Secretary-General outlined key priorities in the fight against AIDS and urged African governments to take the lead in mobilizing political will and resources.

Calling the battle against AIDS one of his personal priorities, in Philadelphia the Secretary-General again spelled out the five key action 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 for HIV/AIDS and vaccine against the disease must be given higher 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. The Secretary-General asked the audience to imagine the human faces behind that statistic, noting that it is more than all the children in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina combined.

To achieve these five goals, in addition to seeking new funding, the Secretary-General called on national leaders – especially of those countries most affected – to commit themselves to a strategy and give it priority in their budgets. 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.

He also stated that it was essential to build stronger healthcare systems in developing countries. Without this, 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 meeting was the annual conference of the Council on Foundations, whose membership had in 1999 combined assets of some $318 billion and grants totalling an estimated $14 billion.

Media contacts:

Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General,
New York, tel: (+1 212) 963 7160, e-mail: de-almeida-e-silva@un.org

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

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

Andrew Shih, UNAIDS New York
tel: (+1 212) 584-5012, e-mail ashih@fenton.com

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

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