UNITED NATIONS, United States: At a special event commemorating World AIDS Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) underscored the need to stop stigma and abuse against those living with the disease and to ensure that they receive the care, treatment and protection they are entitled to.
“Hatred and bigotry spread disease and – as the founders of this movement taught – silence equals death,” stressed Ban in his remarks at the opening of the event. “Tolerance and awareness help stop AIDS. Speaking out protects life.”
Further in his remarks, Ban highlighted the progress made in addressing the disease, including halving the number of children infected through mother-to-child transmission and doubling the number of people with access to medicines.
He also called for action to ensure that the target of providing treatment to 30 million people by 2030 is met. “This requires that we reach the most vulnerable communities – the young women in Sub-Saharan Africa, people who inject drugs, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and the poor who need services and care,” he said.
The event opened with presentation of awards commemorating Ban’s leadership on HIV/AIDS during his tenure as UN chief. Presenting the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS Leadership Award, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said honoring the secretary-general is “a very easy task because you are a true leader that has been able to demonstrate [over the past decade]that peoples’ dignity is central to your agenda.”
Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health has a specific target (Target 3.3) on ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
“You have been taking courageous decisions to visit people where people were looking for hope because they were excluded for who they were, because they were injecting drugs or because of their sexuality. You have been putting their dignity at the front of your personal fight,” Sidibé said.
While “the UN is known for processes,” he said Ban had called for results.
In the time UNAIDS had stepped up its programs to end the epidemic, the numbers of people in treatment had jumped from just three million people in treatment to more than 13 million today. “It’s not all about numbers; this is lives, families who are now capable of giving hope to their children,” he emphasized.
The special event was organized by UNAIDS under the theme “Moving forward together: Leaving no one behind” to collectively endeavor to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Another highlight of this year’s World AIDS Day is the launch of the hands up for #HIVprevention campaign that will explore different aspects of HIV prevention and how they relate to specific groups of people, such as adolescent girls and young women, key populations and people living with HIV.