Published: 1 December 2003
Dear colleagues and distinguished guests;
It is a special honour to gather here with you today to celebrate progress made in the effort to reverse the impact of HIV/AIDS. First of all, I would like to acknowledge the invaluable work done during the past year by the organizations represented here today.
I would especially like to acknowledge the efforts of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and others working at the community level on the front lines in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement hosts millions of volunteers and staff worldwide, many of whom are HIV positive. We need to recognise the valuable contribution they make in carrying out our humanitarian work.
We cannot face the HIV/AIDS crisis alone. We need to join forces and work in partnership if we are to be successful. The work carried out in prevention and care, and to make treatment more accessible to the communities that we represent and serve, as well as the actions taken to reduce stigma and discrimination, could not have been possible without strong partnerships with UN agencies, organizations of people living with HIV/AIDS, governments and civil society.
There are many challenges. Less than five per cent of those that require Antiretrovirals in developing countries have access to them. This is leading to 3 million needless deaths each year. The International Federation and its National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are looking at means to support governments in the delivery of antiretroviral treatment. The International Federation has also taken steps to provide access to lifesaving drugs to staff and volunteers living with HIV/AIDS through the recently created “Masambo Fund”.
The fund has been created to contribute to the survival of humanitarian workers and maintain organizational capacity. It was set up recently in honor of Masambo, a long time staff member of Zimbabwe Red Cross who -if she had been able to access treatment- would probably still be with us. I would like to dedicate the performance by the Soweto Choir today to her legacy.
We all recognize that the stigma and discrimination negates prevention and awareness programmes. In the past two years we have been implementing a global campaign to dispel stigma in partnership with organizations present here today. But despite all we have learned about this pandemic, discriminatory attitudes and policies continue to stigmatize and discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS. That is why the International Federation will be encouraging governments to take practical measures to eliminate legal and policy barriers that discriminate against PLWHA and other vulnerable groups, during International Conference here in Geneva over the next few days.
In closing, I would like to thank UNAIDS, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, World Council of Churches and the Global Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS, for their inspiring work and support on this campaign. We look forward to maintain a good working relationship with you in the next year.