Excellencies, distinguished guests, Red Cross Red Crescent colleagues
Today is World AIDS Day. A day for taking stock of the challenges that humanity is facing because of HIV/AIDS, and for celebrating our successes in supporting the people affected by the pandemic.
It is also a day when we make a firm commitment to sustain the achievements of the past decades, and do more, do better and reach further for the eventual victory over HIV/AIDS.
We have lived with this pandemic for more than three decades. We have seen the high death toll, dislocation of many families, the reduced life spans in hard-hit countries, the increase in child mortality and the millions of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. We have also seen the pain suffered by people who are stigmatized and discriminated against because of their HIV-positive status, and excluded from accessing the support, care and treatment services they so desperately need.
But humanity has also worked hard to address the pandemic and find ways to ease this suffering. The biomedical discoveries, the global efforts in making available unprecedented funds and the expansion of preventive, treatment, care and support services to millions affected by HIV and AIDS have improved the quality of life and stabilized the pandemic in many countries.
However, antiretroviral treatment is still not available to all who need it. Prevention messages have not been expanded to the level needed, and people living with HIV are still discriminated against. Many governments have not yet put in place supportive policies for implementation of harm reduction programmes for injecting drug users. There are many more tasks we need to do.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was one of few international organizations to take the challenges of HIV/AIDS seriously right at the onset of the pandemic. Ever since, we have worked hard to design and expand comprehensive community-based programmes in partnership with governments, and we will continue to do so.
We hear of many encouraging scientific advances, for example that properly administered antiretroviral treatment can effectively prevent HIV infection, and there is immediate hope of finding a therapy to eradicate HIV from an infected person’s body.
These achievements and progress must not be halted by economic uncertainty created by the global financial crisis. The IFRC, therefore, strongly calls upon all governments and organizations to do all possible to fund global HIV programmes to ensure the sustainability of the gains of the past decades, and intensify future efforts to stop the pandemic.
The IFRC fully supports the UNAIDS vision of achieving zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination by 2015. The Red Cross Red Crescent, with its millions of community-based volunteers worldwide, will do everything within its power to make this a reality.