23 September 2003






NEW YORK, 22 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the plenary session of the General Assembly on the follow-up to the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, in New York, 22 September:


  Two years ago, the world’s nations agreed that defeating HIV/AIDS would require commitment, resources and action.


Today, we have the commitment. Our resources are increasing. But the action is still far short of what is needed.


At the General Assembly’s special session on HIV/AIDS in 2001, Member States adopted the Declaration of Commitment, which contained a number of specific, time-bound targets for fighting the epidemic.


This morning, you have before you a report card, based on information provided by your own governments, about progress towards meeting those objectives. One hundred and three countries have provided information to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). It has been consolidated so that you can see how the world as a whole is doing, measured by key indicators that capture the fundamental aspects of the response.


In many respects, there has been progress. Significant new resources to fight the epidemic have been pledged, both by individual Member States and through the Global Fund against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Established soon after the 2001 special session, the Fund has now committed $1.5 billion to 93 countries.


We have seen new levels of collaboration among national governments, the United Nations family and civil society in developing proposals to the Fund, and in bringing essential services to those who need them most. At the country level, the vast majority of Member States now have in place multisectoral national strategies to combat HIV/AIDS. A growing number of national and transnational corporations are adopting AIDS policies in the workplace.


Civil society is becoming an increasingly important partner in pursuing comprehensive measures against HIV/AIDS. Two thirds of the national reports were made with civil society input. Faith communities are more and more active, often bridging gaps between North and South.


And yet, this report makes for sobering reading. We have failed to reach several of the Declaration’s objectives set for this year.


Even more important, we are not on track to begin reducing the scale and impact of the epidemic by 2005. By that date, we should have cut by a quarter the number of young people infected with HIV in the worst affected nations; we should have halved the rate at which infants contract HIV; and we should have comprehensive care programmes in place.


On this, the report is crystal clear: at the current rate of progress, we will not achieve any of those targets by 2005.


One third of all countries still have no policies to ensure that women have access to prevention and care, even though women now account for 50 per cent of those infected worldwide. More than a third of heavily affected countries still have no strategies in place for looking after the increasing number of AIDS orphans. And fully two thirds of all countries fail to provide legal protection against discrimination for the groups that are most vulnerable to HIV.


Only one in nine people wanting to know their HIV status has access to testing, and in sub-Saharan Africa, only one in 16. And only one in 20 pregnant women receiving antenatal care has access to services that could help her avoid transmitting HIV to her baby, or to treatment that could prolong her life.


If we are to stand any chance of meeting the 2005 targets, these ratios will have to be improved drastically.


Later today the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS will unveil their plan to place 3 million people on anti-retroviral therapy by 2005. That needs our support.


The allocation of resources has shown progress -– but not nearly enough. Over the past year, spending on the fight against AIDS in low and middle income countries grew by 20 per cent, and it will reach $4.7 billion per year. Since 1999, domestic spending on AIDS by governments in these countries has doubled.


Yet, we are still only half way to the $10 billion a year that is needed by 2005. The resources available must continue to increase -- through the Global Fund, but also through all other efforts, including those of national governments in heavily affected countries.


We have come a long way, but not far enough. Clearly, we will have to work harder to ensure that our commitment is matched by the necessary resources and action. We cannot claim that competing challenges are more important, or more urgent. We cannot accept that “something else came up” that forced us to place AIDS on the back burner. Something else will always come up.


That is why we must always keep AIDS at the top of our political and practical agenda. I will keep doing my utmost to make it so. I hope you will use this report, and the documents that come with it, as tools to help you in that mission.




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