U.N. Secretary-General Annan, Others on World AIDS Day Call for Greater Accountability From Leaders in Fight Against HIV/AIDS
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday ahead of World AIDS Day urged world citizens to hold their leaders accountable in the struggle to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic and to maintain the momentum in the fight, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 11/30). Accountability is the theme of this year's World AIDS Day (De Capua, VOA News, 12/1). Speaking at a commemoration ceremony in New York City, Annan called HIV/AIDS "the greatest challenge of our generation," but he added that attitudes toward the epidemic have changed over the last decade (AP/International Herald Tribune, 11/30). "Financial resources are being committed like never before, people have access to antiretroviral treatment like never before and several countries are managing to fight the spread like never before," he said. However, he added, "Because the response has started to gain real momentum, the stakes are higher now than ever before. We cannot risk letting the advances that have been achieved unravel." According to Annan, controlling the spread of HIV is "a prerequisite" for achieving other development goals, and accountability "requires every president and prime minister, every parliamentarian and politician to decide and declare that 'AIDS stops with me.'" World leaders also must do more to protect vulnerable groups -- such as injection drug users, commercial sex workers, youth and men who have sex with men -- Annan said, adding that civil society groups, health workers, community leaders, faith-based organizations and individuals also must be accountable in the fight against HIV/AIDS (U.N. release, 11/30).
Statements From World Leaders
HIV/AIDS "remains one of the world's most pressing public health challenges," Acting World Health Organization Director-General Anders Nordstrom said in a statement. He called for sustained commitment in the fight against the pandemic, the effective use of resources and accountability. He also said that there is still "a very long way to go" in providing treatment for all those who need it and that many countries need more motivated skilled health workers. "Our ability to be responsive to changes in the epidemic is a central factor if we are to succeed. We have to be constantly alert to shifts in the epidemic dynamic and country contexts, aware of which approaches are successful and flexible enough to adapt our responses accordingly," Nordstrom said (WHO release, 12/1). UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said the scale and impact of HIV prevention programs needs to be increased, and he called for more focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls (UNAIDS release, 11/30). President Bush in a statement released on Thursday said, "On World AIDS Day, we underscore our commitment to fight the AIDS pandemic with compassion and decisive action," adding that "we stand with our friends and partners around the world in the urgent struggle to fight the virus, comfort those who are affected and saves lives." According to Bush, fighting the pandemic "includes the ABC approach encouraging abstinence, being faithful, and using condoms, with abstinence as the only sure way to avoid the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 12/1). Bush also urged people in the U.S. to remember people who have died of AIDS-related illnesses and collaborate to halt the spread of the virus (VOA News, 12/1). HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt in a statement announced that his agency on Friday plans to launch AIDS.gov, an Internet gateway to federal HIV/AIDS information. He said HHS encourages users to learn about HIV prevention, testing, treatment and research programs and to find federal policies and resources (HHS release, 11/30). Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson called on the Group of Eight industrialized nations to keep their promise to provide access to antiretroviral drugs for virtually all people who need them by 2010. She added that more needs to be done to protect women and girls from contracting HIV (De Capua, VOA News, 12/1). U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said governments have a duty to ensure access to antiretroviral treatment for all people who need it without discriminating against certain groups, such as sex workers, IDUs or children (Reuters UK, 12/1).