Feature story

UN Secretary-General reaffirms commitment to be an activist alongside UNAIDS during visit to headquarters

27 January 2011

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé (left) welcomes United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to UNAIDS Secretariat headquarters in Geneva on 26 January. Credit: UNAIDS/D. Bregnard

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid a visit to the UNAIDS Secretariat headquarters in Geneva on 26 January.

He was welcomed by Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director and senior staff, as well as by Kate Thompson a UNAIDS staff member representing UN Plus and Jason Sigurdson from the UNAIDS Staff Association. Christopher Davis, Campaigns Director of The Body Shop was also present and thirteen year old Vilasini Mahesh greeted Mrs Ban with flowers.

In his welcome address to the Secretary-General, Michel Sidibe noted that Mr Ban was a “passionate supporter” of UN Cares and UN Plus and expressed his pride to work with such a leader. He described how UNAIDS follows Mr Ban’s call for organizations to be built around accountability, transparency and efficiency.

The Secretary-General, visiting UNAIDS for the second time, took the opportunity to share his thoughts and vision with staff, and encouraged them to work even harder to “remove the hidden obstacles” in the AIDS response. Regional Support Teams based in Johannesburg, Dakar, Port of Spain, and Panama City joined by videoconference.

As Secretary–General I have a responsibility to take care of all people suffering and experiencing discrimination

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Mr Ban highlighted the importance of doing more to prevent HIV infections and pledged to be an activist in this issue. He also drew attention to the need for countries to remove travel restriction laws that discriminate against people living with HIV saying, "I am continuing to raise this issue whenever I meet leaders of countries with these restrictions. This is a very important part of human rights." Endorsing UNAIDS vision, he said he would be an activist and a champion for “no new infections, no discrimination and no AIDS-related deaths.”

Mr Ban has shown special interest in issue of UN staff living with HIV and he thanked representatives from UN Plus broadening his vision on the issue of HIV and the workplace. He restated his personal commitment to the importance of the UN in providing an enabling environment for staff living with HIV and removing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

He also took the opportunity to interact with the UNAIDS staff and answer some of their questions. On being asked what motivates him to champion for rights of sex workers, drug users, men who have sex with men and transgender people, Mr Ban said, "As Secretary–General I have a responsibility to take care of all people suffering and experiencing discrimination."

Earlier in the day, Mr Ban co-launched an accountability commission for the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health which was launched at the MDG Summit in New York in 2010. The strategy, developed with support and facilitation by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, calls for all partners to unite and take real action towards recognizing that the health of women and children is key to progress on all development goals. He urged UNAIDS staff and UN country teams to take a strong role in integrating HIV response with this initiative.

After the staff interaction, the Secretary-General held a separate meeting with the UNAIDS Cabinet.