27 June 2001


NEW YORK, 26 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the dialogue event with people living with HIV/AIDS in New York today:

I am indeed deeply grateful to you all for coming today. Let me thank the Red Cross/Red Crescent and GNP Plus [the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS] for organizing this event. What I have seen and heard today is a wonderful example of the kind of leadership and partnership we need to win the fight against HIV/AIDS.

I particularly want to welcome those among us who are living with HIV/AIDS. As you know, delegates from all over the world are currently meeting here for a special session of the General Assembly to agree on an expanded global response to the epidemic. It is a crucial meeting. But the response to AIDS is far too important to be left only to politicians and bureaucrats. The active participation of those living with HIV/AIDS is absolutely vital.

In the 20 years since the world first heard of AIDS, you have been at the forefront of the response. The work you are doing with the rest of civil society is a model of the social mobilization we need. While others may have been hampered by taboo and stigma, yours has often been a lone and courageous voice breaking the silence.

Wherever I have travelled in the world, I have found civil society and people living with HIV/AIDS setting the pace in care and prevention, and in advocating greater action at national and international levels -- while, I am sorry to say, the response in other quarters has often been painfully slow.

Now, as the rest of the world's response is beginning to catch up with yours, you are working more and more in partnership with the public and private sectors, using your unique skills and experience to help make programmes more responsive to the needs of local communities. You have understood that partnerships are the way forward. The only way to beat this epidemic is to bring together every sector of society.

While we know that the involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS is essential to our fight, it can still be difficult -- sometimes even dangerous -- for them to be active and open about their status. That is why the example set by your partnership is so important. The public alliance between the Red Cross/Red Crescent and GNP Plus sends a powerful message to decision makers, and to society as a whole, about the importance of tackling stigma and discrimination.

I hope this meeting will allow you to build further on the things that you have achieved, and talk about things that have yet to be achieved. For my part, I will keep encouraging others to follow your example in the future.

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