Today we gather to end AIDS
"Today we gather to end AIDS," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said here Wednesday at the start of the three-day UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS, and he said that the meeting's goal is to end the global epidemic within the decade.
"Today, we have a chance to end this epidemic once and for all," Ban said in remarks to about 30 heads of state, government and vice presidents are expected at the high level meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Ten years after the 2001 UN Special Session on HIV/ AIDS, and the 2006 signing of the Political Declaration where UN member states committed to moving towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, the world body meets at this critical point.
Hailing the high level meeting as "historic," the secretary-general said it was a call to action where global solidarity is more critical than ever to truly provide universal access to HIV prevention.
"Today we gather to end AIDS," Ban said. "This is our goal: an end to AIDS within the decade -- zero new infections, zero stigma and zero AIDS-related deaths."
"Looking back, there is much we could have done differently," Ban said. "Looking ahead, there are also proud accomplishments that this General Assembly can build on."
Today, HIV is on a steep decline in some of the most affected countries, he said, naming countries like Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. "They had the largest epidemics in the world, and they have cut infection rates by one quarter."
"But if we are to relegate AIDS to the history books, we must be bold," Ban said. "That means facing sensitive issues, including men who have sex with men, drug users and the sex trade."
Citing his predecessor, Kofi Annan who ended his terms as the UN secretary-general in December 2006, Ban said that he inspired the fight against the epidemic, where he asked the pharmaceutical conglomerates for help in getting AIDS medicines to all who need them.
The new Global Plan to eliminate HIV infections in children by 2015 and keep their mothers live will bring "our global strategy to life with clear, time-bound commitments, shared responsibility and leadership," he said.
"First, we need all partners to come together in global solidarity as never before," Ban said. "That is the only way to truly provide universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care by 2015."
He also called on lower costs to deliver better programs, better accountability and making sure the HIV responses promote health, human rights security and dignity of women and girls.
"We can end the fear," Ban said. "We can stop the suffering and death it brings. We can get to an AIDS-free world."
On the final day of the session, UN member states are expected to adopt a declaration that will help direct country responses to HIV for the next five years.