Ahead of XVIII International AIDS Conference UNAIDS Executive Director visits Vienna
08 April 2010
During an official visit to Vienna, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé met with high-ranking government representatives of Austria, including the Minister of Health Alois Stöger, Executive City Councillor for Public Health and Social Affairs of Vienna Sonja Wehsely, as well as Her Excellencies Ambassadors Irene Freudenschuss-Reichl, Director General of the Department of Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria and Brigitte Öppinger-Walchshofer, Director General of the Austrian Development Agency.
The visit acknowledged the strengthening of the relationship between UNAIDS and Austria in recent years, and was very timely as Austria is hosting the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna from 18-23 July 2010.
In his meeting with Minister of Health Alois Stöger, Mr Sidibé commended Austria for its support for the upcoming International AIDS Conference, emphasizing that UNAIDS wanted this event to become a turning point in addressing the epidemic, especially with regard to the debate around AIDS and its strong linkages with human rights, as well as with the issues of migrant populations and violence against women. He encouraged Austria as host of the Conference to play a leadership role on HIV prevention in the Eastern European/Central Asian region, especially given the rise of the co-infections with TB. AIDS was an opportunity to make progress on larger health and development goals through the integration of HIV services with wider health services including treatment of tuberculosis as well as sexual and reproductive health.
Mr Sidibé commended the City of Vienna for its leading work on HIV prevention in a meeting with the Executive City Councillor for Public Health and Social Affairs of Vienna Ms Sonja Wehsely, and mentioned with regard to the upcoming AIDS Conference that Vienna “should not only be the bridge between the east and the west but also the bridge between people who have and who have not,” and be an opportunity to bring together minorities. The City Councillor affirmed the importance of making the conference visible in order to show that “the City of Vienna was on the side of solidarity.” Mr Sidibé outlined his priorities, being the virtual elimination of mother-to child-transmission and a strong focus on prevention and “zero new infections”. Another topic of discussion was the planned first participation of UNAIDS at the Vienna Life Ball on 17 July 2010. This is the biggest charity event in Europe supporting people living with HIV and has been running annually since 1993.
In discussions with high-ranking representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Austrian Development Agency, Mr Sidibé highlighted the good cooperation between UNAIDS and Austria in the past and expressed his wish to further consolidate the relationship, encouraging Austria to become a regular donor to UNAIDS.
During his visit, Mr Sidibé also met with the Austrian Action Alliance against HIV and AIDS, an association of over 40 Austrian non-governmental organizations who advocate for a greater involvement of Austria in the AIDS response. Mr Sidibé emphasized the importance to strategically reposition the AIDS agenda, given the need for a prevention revolution and the support of civil society activism. He hoped the Vienna AIDS conference could be a bridge to the upcoming MDG summit in September 2010.