Press Releases

    5 May 2006

    In Message to African Union Special Summit, Secretary-General Says "Fight against AIDS Remains My Personal Priority"

    NEW YORK, 4 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Special Summit of the African Union on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Abuja, delivered today by Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director, UNAIDS:

    Five years ago, we met here in Abuja for the 2001 Africa Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Infectious Diseases.  I said then that this was a moment of hope, because I was convinced the Summit was a turning point in our response to the biggest development challenge of our time.

    Five years on, my conviction has been borne out.

    We have seen a turning point in commitment.  In more than 20 African countries, the response to AIDS is now being led personally by Heads of State or Government, or their deputies.  Six African countries have reached the Abuja 2001 target of allocating 15 per cent of their national budgets to health, or are close to it, and one third of African nations have allocated at least 10 per cent.  The 2001 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly gave us the Declaration of Commitment, and Africa's partners have provided real support for the war chest that I called for in Abuja five years ago -- the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  There have also been far-reaching commitments by the Group of Eight and other donor Governments, particularly on debt relief, increased official development assistance (ODA), and trade justice.

    We have also seen a turning point in developments on the ground.  A steadily growing number of African countries are seeing a sharp fall in new HIV infections.  And in the past two years, there has been an eightfold increase in the number of Africans benefiting from antiretroviral therapy.

    But let us not imagine that the AIDS epidemic is waning by itself, nor that the exceptional gravity of its impact has diminished.  AIDS remains Africa's greatest development challenge, and without defeating it, we cannot reach the Millennium Development Goals.  That means we must guard against the danger of reducing, even by one iota, the priority we place on fighting AIDS, in Africa and worldwide.  That is the central message of the report I have submitted to United Nations Member States on worldwide implementation of the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.

    The road map for the next few years is clear.  It is spelt out in the UNAIDS Assessment "Towards Universal Access" for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.  The Assessment reflects broad public debates in over 100 low- and middle-income countries.  Let me emphasize one overarching priority:  if we are to win this war, our efforts will have to be guided by the need to promote gender equality and all human rights for all -- even those whose orientation, behaviour or life choices we may personally not agree with.

    We must also do more in the fight against tuberculosis, which has been declared an emergency by Africa's Ministers of Health and which is also the leading cause of death among people infected with HIV.  I call on leaders attending this Summit to commit to full implementation of the Stop TB Partnership's Global Plan to Stop TB.  The Plan provides a road map for reversing the disease, and for driving down mortality through the expansion of treatment and prevention programmes.

    Malaria, too, must be part of the picture.  International funding for malaria control in Africa has increased significantly, and some countries have made considerable progress.  But the disease continues to kill more than a million Africans every year, and puts real constraints on economic growth.  To reach our common goal of halving malaria mortality by 2010, we need to do more to strengthen health systems, expand access to therapies and broaden the use of insecticide-treated nets, especially for pregnant women and children under five.

    As you know from long and hard experience, leadership is the key as we move ahead.  That is why the fight against AIDS remains my personal priority -- and I look to you to keep making it yours.  I urge all of you to attend the High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS opening in four weeks' time, and to participate as one powerful and unified voice.  Indeed, it is the engagement of Africa's leaders that has brought us to where we are today.  Only with your continued and full commitment can we achieve the end of AIDS in Africa and see fully effective action against the scourge of deadly disease.

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