Press Releases

                                                                                                                            13 July 2004

    Asia-Pacific’s Impressive Anti-Poverty Gains Could Be Reversed by HIV/AIDS, Says Secretary-General to Bangkok Ministerial Meeting

    NEW YORK, 12 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at the opening ceremony of the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Meeting on HIV/AIDS in Bangkok, 11 July:

    I am glad to meet with you at this critical juncture in the fight against AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region.

    I know that many of you are showing impressive leadership in that fight.  That is the kind of commitment that is needed from all the leaders of the region.

    We know that AIDS is far more than a health crisis.  It is a threat to social and economic development as a whole.  Key ministries of your governments -- ministries of finance, education and development, as well as health -- must be actively involved in implementing your national AIDS programmes, and in bringing financial and human resources to the effort.

    By the same token, the response to this complex challenge must engage every part of society -- government, business, civil society, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

    Here in Asia, HIV/AIDS stands at a turning point.  I know you will hear more about that from Peter Piot.

    But let us be clear:  how you address this challenge will impact the very future of the region.

    In recent decades, more people have escaped from poverty in Asia and the Pacific than in any other part of the world, and more than in any previous time.  You have done more than any other region to make globalization work to your advantage.

    These gains have impressed the whole world.  You must cherish, and carefully nurture them.  Above all, you must not let them be reversed by HIV/AIDS.

    More than 8 million people in your region are now living with HIV/AIDS, and the number is rising fast.  Some areas have been battling the epidemic for well over a decade.  But it has now reached almost every corner of the region.

    Left unchecked, AIDS will not only devastate millions of lives; it will also impose huge burdens on the region’s health systems, and soak up resources that are badly needed for social and economic development.

    So the fight against HIV/AIDS requires constant vigilance and renewal.  We know, from experience elsewhere, that the spread can be turned back when -- but only when -- there is a coordinated response, from all sectors of society and every branch of government.  It requires leadership at every level.

    As representatives of your region’s governments, all of you can help make that happen.  It is a vital responsibility, which requires all your energy and imagination.

    It requires finding ways to reach out to all groups, and devising approaches for prevention and treatment that are suited to their needs -- whether young people, sex workers, injecting drug users, or men who have sex with men.

    And it means stamping out stigma and discrimination in communities and in the workplace -- ugly phenomena that create fear and exclusion, and undermine both prevention and treatment efforts.

    Today, you will be discussing essential components in the fight against HIV/AIDS -- political commitment, community involvement, policy and resources. They are the four corners of the foundation for a successful and sustained response.

    I look forward to hearing about the outcome of your discussion, and thank every one of you for your commitment.

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