Press Releases

Note to the press

Note No. 224
28 November 2002


On the occasion of World AIDS Day on 1 December, the United Nations
AIDS Programme says stigma and discrimination must be tackled

VIENNA, 28 November (UN Information Service) -- In June 1981 one of the most dangerous and devastating viruses was discovered in the United States, by scientists who called it the Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome. We know little about HIV/AIDS, but we do know that it has infected 60 million people to date worldwide and that today over 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. Still the epidemic is in the early stage of development and what will happen in the long term is not clear . Rates of HIV infections are consistently on the rise, increasing with 14,000 new infections every day adding to the global impact. In 2001 an estimated 800,000 children became infected and in some parts of the world as many as 40 per cent of pregnant women are affected.

The United Nations quickly realised the global dimensions of the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the Special Programme on AIDS in 1987. In 1988 World AIDS Day was launched by WHO and its annual observance was determined by the General Assembly resolution 43/15. The creation of UNAIDS in 1996 was the trigger for targeted action in the fight against the epidemic. The 1st December has been redefined to the centre of a campaign, putting AIDS annually on the agenda. Sustained, qualified and perpetual efforts have attained a steadily growing international mobilisation, with worldwide partnerships across governments, civil society and the business sector, all enriching the fight for awareness and prevention.

Every year the World AIDS Campaign has a different theme, tackling key issues, such as Children, Young People and AIDS; and Men and AIDS. This year it focuses on stigma and discrimination, which fuel the epidemic and violate human rights. Prevention and care efforts are hampered by denial and prejudices. Campaigns and projects have clearly shown the impact education can have on preventing the spreading of HIV/AIDS. Projects involving young people are of particular value, with a recent survey showing that young people in Zambia have increasingly changed their attitude towards condom use since the 90s as a result of education projects. To target young people, UNAIDS has established a successful partnership with MTV, the worldwide music and youth channel. A tribute concert as well as educational films will be broadcast in support of this year’s campaign.

AIDS is often accompanied by prejudice and discrimination, which violates fundamental human rights and creates a vicious circle. Affected or vulnerable groups are driven into isolation, which affects the capacity of societies to respond constructively to the impact of the disease. In its Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001, the UN General Assembly called on all member states to eliminate all measures and legislation, which discriminate people with HIV/AIDS.

The cost of effectively combating HIV/AIDS and to achieve one of the Millennium Goals, to stop the spreading of AIDS by 2015, were estimated at 7-10 billion US Dollar a year. However, a survey published in October 2002 shows that at least 10.5 billion US Dollars a year are needed. The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan demands a minimum of 10 billion Dollar each year. "I think we are making progress, although we are a couple of years away," Mr. Annan said about the global campaign against AIDS. "We live in an inter-dependent world. There's constant movement of people. And when it comes to health, diseases, the environment, terrorism, we're all in the same boat."

In Austria 400-500 people are infected with HIV annually, which is a relatively small number. An annual event in Vienna the "Life Ball" raised 805 000 Euro this year for AIDS organisations, to combat the "silence" surrounding AIDS. On 1st December a Red Ribbon will be lit up outside the city hall and the Mayor of Vienna Michael Häupl calls this a statement of "tolerance and openness" on the World Aids Day.

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