Feature story

UNAIDS Executive Director commends Japan’s commitment to AIDS and the Global Fund

03 September 2010

Michel Sidibé
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé addresses the “Access to Life” photo exhibition in Tokyo. 3 September, 2010. Credit: UNAIDS

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé congratulated the Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on his country’s generosity to the AIDS response. Japan has invested more than US$ 1 billion in HIV assistance to low-and middle-income countries since 2002. Japan is a leading donor of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which was first conceived at the 2000 G8 summit in Okinawa.

In his address at the opening of the “Access to Life” photo exhibition in Tokyo, Prime Minister Kan emphasized the commitment of the Government of Japan to support the global AIDS response at the upcoming Summit for the Millennium Development Goals.

“Infectious diseases are a threat to human security, but progress in treatment has enabled people living with HIV to lead normal lives,” said Prime Minister Kan. “At the MDG Summit, I will do my best to present strong support for the global AIDS response through our support for the Global Fund.”

At the MDG Summit, I will do my best to present strong support for the global AIDS response through our support for the Global Fund.

Naoto Kan, Japanese Prime Minister

“Japan’s exemplary commitment to the AIDS response is saving millions of lives around the world,” said Mr Sidibé. “The country’s attention to human security and the value of human life enabled the G8 to keep HIV and global health high on the global agenda.”

The photo exhibition was jointly produced by the Global Fund and Magnum Photos. The Fund’s Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine also attended the launch, which comes just weeks before a crucial replenishment meeting in New York.

“As our fourth largest donor, Japan has been such a strong supporter of the Global Fund” said Mr Kazatchkine. “With the support of the people of Japan, more than five million people now access AIDS treatment in developing countries.”

Japan’s exemplary commitment to the AIDS response is saving millions of lives around the world.

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

The meeting with the Prime Minister came on the last day of Mr Sidibé’s first official visit to Japan which included discussions with key Japanese partners in government, public health, civil society and the private sector. In meetings with the Vice Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, Hiroyuki Nagahama, and senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he encouraged Japan to use its global influence to keep HIV high on the international agenda. A discussion with business leaders focused on how the Japanese private sector has enhanced Japan’s contribution to the AIDS response. Mr Sidibé’s also met with Kiyoshi Kodera, the Vice-President of JICA to discuss opportunities to strengthen ties between JICA and UNAIDS. He held another meeting with Koichiro Matsuura, the former Director General of UNESCO, whose leadership was instrumental in supporting the first international guidelines for HIV sexuality education among young people.

Mr Sidibé paid a courtesy visit to Japan Football Association, that endorsed UNAIDS’ campaign, “Give AIDS the red card” and prevent mother to child HIV transmission. The President of the Japan Football Association, Junji Ogura expressed Japan’s interest in using football to raise public awareness on HIV.

The trip included an impromptu meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who was in Japan on an official state visit. Prime Minister Zapatero said his country will continue to be very supportive of the global AIDS response.

In a public address at Tokyo University, Mr Sidibé urged Tokyo to become the first G8 capital to reach UNAIDS’ bold target of zero new HIV infections by 2015. Japan has a low national HIV prevalence rate of 0.01-0.02%.

Mr Sidibé paid a site visit to the MSM Community Center AKTA which is located in the heart of Tokyo’s famous Shinjuku district. This night district houses one of the world’s highest concentration of gay bars. The community centre run by the Japanese non-profit Rainbow Ring provides information on safe sex, peer counseling and HIV testing. While Japan’s HIV prevalence remains low, new HIV cases among MSM have been increasing.