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UN high-level HIV-AIDS meeting continues with progress reports

Xinhua - June 9, 2011
Victor Makwenge Kaput, Minister of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), addresses a high-level meeting on a comprehensive review of the progress achieved in realizing the Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS and the Political Declaration on the pandemic
Victor Makwenge Kaput (UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)
The message delivered by scores of speakers on the second day of the three-day UN High Level Meeting on AIDS on Thursday, marking 30 years of the pandemic, was that most of their countries were making progress but increased efforts had to be made with greater cooperation needed among nations.

In the case of developing states, gratitude was expressed for past help but more aid was needed to continue the battle.

Despite the similarities in content, the chair, UN General Assembly President Joseph Deiss, repeatedly appealed to speakers to limit their speeches to their allotted five minutes, warning at the halfway point that if everyone was taking an extra few minutes, a fourth day would have to be added to the agenda.

One of the briefest addresses, well under time, was delivered by Yin Li, China's vice health minister, which he referred to as " a responsible developing country."

Briefly listing some of the steps taken, the Chinese vice minister focused on achieving the UNAIDS goal of the three Zs -- " Zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths."

"We should unite to generate a joint force, irrespective of gender, skin color, nationality, beliefs, values and ideology. Developed countries should further provide developing countries with unselfish, unconditional financial and technical support," he said. "Developing countries should place AIDS control in a position as important as economic development and actively explore prevention and treatment mode consistent with national conditions. "

"Second, given the increasing disease burden of AIDS," he said, "the private sector and relevant organizations should shoulder more social responsibility.

"On the one hand efforts should be made to mobilize more resources in AIDS to better implement prevention, treatment and care measures; on the other hand, multinational drug manufacturers should reduce by a large margin the price of drugs, testing equipment and reagents through technology transfer, contract manufacturing and reduction of monopoly profits in order to promote universal access to treatment services," Yin added.

Since AIDS prevention and treatment in China is an important component in the global fight against AIDS, he said, "Progress made in China is a positive contribution globally."

The High Level Meeting on AIDS is taking place 10 years after the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS and five years since signing of the Political Declaration in which UN Member States committed to universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Norway's minister of the environment and international development, Erik Solheim, said, "Prevention and treatment must be mutually reinforcing and better treatment regiments need to be made available."

He called for development of innovative methods for prevention.

While Solheim said "remarkable" results had been achieved in the last three decades, there still was a need for a " transformation of current working methods."

AIDS must be taken out of isolation into an "integrated approach," noting that HIV response has to be connected with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health and "HIV and AIDS programs should be mainstreamed into national health systems, he said.

Solheim said that the social, political and economic empowerment of women is crucial and he welcomed the establishment of the new UN agency UN Women.

"The burden of HIV in the world is reduced but major challenges remain," the minister said. "Our experience is that the approaches that work well on HIV, are those based on rights and on promoting the dignity of people."

Celsius Waterberg, the health minister of Suriname, said the nation "is among the few countries in the Caribbean where the incidence of HIV infection has decreased by more than 25 percent."

The strides forward are due to a national multi-sectoral HIV Council, setting up structures to provide leadership in quality of services and training in revised treatment protocols, he said.

Suriname, the smallest sovereign state in South America, on the northeast coast of the continent, also introduced combined prevention tools and implemented pilot projects successful in mobilizing men for circumcision as an additional preventive measure, Waterberg said.

Challenges that need to be overcome include harmful traditions and customs, misconceptions and adverse beliefs, language barriers in a multilingual society and vulnerability of small communities and individuals due to HIV-related stigma, gender inequalities and poverty, he said.

Victor Makwenge Kaput, health minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said that although the government had made progress in supporting individuals living with HIV and protecting the uninfected, it continues to face many challenges. Indeed, HIV prevalence stood at 3.7 percent for pregnant women and 3 percent for the general population, he said.

AIDS' victims increasingly are women and youth with infections particularly concentrated along the Congo River, the minister said. Today, 1.2 million citizens are infected. Total population in the third largest country in Africa, about the size of Western Europe, is 71 million.

He said women account for roughly 71,000 new infections each year and the government is now paying particular attention to mother-to-child transmission.

Kaput said his long war-torn nation is committed to the global vision of zero infections and appealed for support to curb the spread of HIV.

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