As everybody knows this is my last PCB meeting. It’s therefore with mixed feelings that I am addressing you. Rather than give you my usual report on the work of UNAIDS since the last since the last PCB meeting, I’d like to share some reflections on the past and future of UNAIDS and the aids response. I’m afraid I will be a bit longer than usual.
I arrived here yesterday from South Africa, where I saw very positive signs of strong new leadership on AIDS. The National AIDS Council has a clear agenda, and it is good to see government and civil society really rallying together to achieve this.
My friends - it is an honour and a pleasure to be with you here in Durban on World AIDS Day. We are here because we have reasons to celebrate and causes for concern. Last time I spoke in this stadium was in 2000, at the 13th International AIDS Conference. I will never forget seeing small, frail Nkosi Johnson standing on this stage, nor the bold words he spoke.
This conference takes place as we enter a new phase in confronting aids. A new phase because we now have results on a large scale. For the first time, fewer people are dying of aids and fewer people are becoming infected with HIV. For the first time we have empirical evidence that our brilliant coalition can move mountains. A unique and diverse coalition present here in this auditorium. This is cause for encouragement. But not cause for complacency, nor for declaring victory.
Over the years, we have seen how vital leadership is in the fight against AIDS. So I’m particularly pleased that this Coalition brings together two kinds of leaders: women leaders in the AIDS response (including women living with HIV) and women leaders in the political arena. Your Coalition has become a rallying point for women across the region to make their voices heard. In the course of the coming week, we must make sure that women remain at the centre of the proceedings of this International AIDS Conference.
Many countries represented here today are making impressive headway on AIDS, particularly in the areas of antiretroviral treatment. Many countries in the region including our host Mexico are now providing universal access to services to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV. By showing what is possible, you have inspired other regions.
I take the floor today to speak on behalf of UNAIDS’ ten Cosponsoring agencies. As the Secretary General’s report shows, we are now finally seeing real results in almost every region. Results many once said could never happen – because of denial or because there wasn’t enough money, because health systems were too weak, because they didn’t think people would take their medication on time. Just imagine what would have happened if we had waited to resolve all these issues: where would those three million people who are now taking antiretroviral treatment be now? Most would not be alive today.
First let me thank the Government of Uganda, and all the organizers of this meeting for bringing us together today – and you, President Museveni, for your historic leadership in the fight against AIDS.
I also welcome this opportunity to resume an important dialogue. Finance and planning ministers have a crucial role to play in responding to AIDS – as vital, in different ways – as that of health ministers.