1 June 2006

In Remarks to Civil Society Hearing at AIDS High-Level Meeting, Secretary-General Calls for Greater Involvement of People Living With HIV

NEW YORK, 31 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks today by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the civil society hearing in connection with the General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, in New York:

Thank you, Mr. President, for hosting this very important event.

This week gives us an historic opportunity to reaffirm our collective and individual commitment in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

After 25 long and hard years, we have learnt that we can win that fight only if civil society is at the heart of our efforts.

To forge a truly collective front, we need the engagement of an exceptionally broad and diverse range of civil society groups.

I am delighted that we have such a wide spectrum represented in this room today -- including from the private sector.

One of the absolute musts in this effort is greater and more meaningful involvement of people living with HIV.

Their perspectives are needed to make sense of programmes, planning and policymaking for HIV prevention, care and treatment. Their engagement is the key to stamping out stigma and discrimination. Their voice is the surest way to sustain the passion and compassion we need to win against the pandemic.

Yet, so far, HIV-positive people have not been involved nearly enough. The international community has not made full use of their expertise and insight. Too often, attempts to engage them have looked like tokenism.

We must do better. That means Governments, the UN system and civil society at large need to develop more effective partnerships with people living with HIV.

It means we must work closely and constructively with those who have too often been marginalized -- sex workers, injecting drug users, and men having sex with men.

And it means networks and organizations of people living with HIV need to develop stronger and more strategic leadership.

That is why I am so heartened to see so many HIV-positive people here today. And why it is so important that, just a few moments ago, Khensani Mavasa of South Africa became the first person living with HIV to address the General Assembly.

Equally, we need to keep building up our partnerships with two other global communities that are indispensable to our struggle: young people and women.

As I told the plenary this morning, most countries have still not ensured that young people have an accurate understanding of HIV and how it can infect them. And infections among women are increasing in every part of the world.

Yet, we also know that it is women and young people, through their creativity, resilience and strength, who have been at the vanguard of the struggle so far.

Friends, only by working together can we move our collective response forward. I am grateful to every one of you for your engagement, and hope many more will follow your example.

Let's move on with the fight.

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