XV International AIDS Conference Ends With Leaders Calling for Increased Commitment to Fighting HIV/AIDS Worldwide
Thai children directly affected by HIV/AIDS performed at the closing ceremonies of the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, emphasizing to delegates the importance of their work to stop the epidemic. Everyone who spoke challenged conference participants to appreciate the urgency of their task and to strive toward unity.
"In the next decade, we need to do more to rapidly move to focus on our unfinished and neglected agenda," Sudarat Keyuraphan, Thailand's minister of public health, said, adding, "We need to focus on the vulnerable groups, notably the kids, the women, the mobile population, the migrant workers and the intravenous drug users. In particular, we need to focus on our future effort to protect and empower the children and the women, which are the victims of this social problem. In addition, we need to tackle head on the issues of stigmatization and discrimination. I am sure that sincere and intensive implementation of all commitments that we have made here will lead us to that direction."
"We had spirited discussions and shared diverse views, but hopefully in the end we recognize that there is more that unites us than divides us and that unity, not confrontation, is key to our success," Dr. Helene Gayle of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and incoming International AIDS Society president said.
"I hope we leave here having put an end to divisive debates about abstinence, monogamy or condoms when we need them all and more. That we find a way to make generic drugs and branded drugs of the highest quality and lowest cost available to all who need them. That we no longer talk about clean needles or drug treatment when both are necessary. That we recognize that pooled resources and bilateral funding are complementary, that we can change men's behaviors and empower women at the same time. That we can fight AIDS and fight poverty," she said.
"We recognize that we have not done enough to protect people from new infections," Graca Machel, patron of the Conference Leadership Program and international human rights advocate, said, adding, "We have not done enough to provide access to affordable treatment and care to all those who need it. We have not done enough to combat stigma, unnecessary criminalization and discrimination, or to reduce the risk and vulnerability of tens of millions of young people and adults. We are also concerned that we have not succeeded in meaningfully involving infected and affected people in our response."
"The day after tomorrow, the 18th of July, will be the day I turn 86," former South African President Nelson Mandela said, adding, "There could be no better birthday gift than knowing that there is renewed commitment from leaders in every sector of society to take real and urgent action against AIDS. We know what needs to be done -- all that is missing is the will to do it. Allow me to enjoy my retirement knowing that you can rise to the challenge."
"Given the scale of suffering wrought by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is to be expected that doomsday scenarios of its spread are commonplace," Indian Member of Parliament and President of the Indian National Congress Party Sonia Gandhi said, adding, "My country figures prominently in all these projections. While there is no room for complacency, I would like to take this opportunity to categorically assert the determination and ability of the government and the people of India to meet this daunting challenge, just as effectively as they did in the campaign to eradicate smallpox some decades ago. We have risen to meet social, political and technological challenges in the past, and I am confident we will do so again in the present context."
"This week, you have heard many important commitments to increase access to AIDS prevention, treatment and care," Jong-Wook Lee, director general of the World Health Organization, said, adding, "I pledge to work together with you in ensuring that these commitments are met. I will continue to ensure that WHO is with you at the forefront of efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. History will judge all of us by our response to HIV/AIDS. That response must meet the high ambition and bold commitments of this conference: 'Access for All.' Let us now go and put it into practice."
"There is no time to be divided by institutional agendas," Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said, adding, "We all have the same goals, and we must work together -- each playing to our individual strengths. Today I reiterate my own commitment -- and that of the whole UNAIDS family -- to doing so. Friends, let us not forget that all the tools to change the course of this epidemic are in our hands. But are we really willing to change our institutional behaviors as much as our personal behaviors? Are we ready to radically take on these challenges, to leave behind our flags? Every person in this room will provide part of that answer. But what I know is if we are not willing we will massively fail."
The gathering ended with delegates committing to work together toward progress in both treatment and prevention. The hope is that there will be successes to celebrate -- in terms of lives saved and infections thwarted -- when the 2006 conference convenes in Toronto, Canada (Jill Braden, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/16).
Daily Update video highlights, as well as the video of the entire closing ceremonies, will be available online from kaisernetwork.org.