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UNDP Official Delivers Speech in Beijing on World AIDS Day

The Donation and Commending Convention for "121 Joint Action Plan" Against AIDS was held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Dec. 1, the World AIDS Day. Mr. Khalid Malik, UN resident coordinator in China and UNDP resident representative, delivers a speech at the convention. The "121 Joint Action Plan" launched in March 2003 was sponsored by the Chinese Foundation for Prevention of STD and AIDS.


The following is Mr. Khalid Malik's speech at the convention.


Speech at World AIDS Day


December 1, 2003 Beijing, China


by Mr. Khalid Malik, UN resident coordinator in China and UNDP resident representative


Honorable Vice Chairman of CCPCC Zhou Tienong,


Distinguished guests,


Ladies and gentlemen,


HIV/AIDS is a global crisis that despite recent advances in treatment and understanding requires even more than before, urgent action on an unprecedented scale. For China, as one of the countries experiencing rapid growth of HIV infections, the challenge of combating the epidemic is particularly daunting. China now has an estimated 840,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. Few of them have access to treatment and proper care. Most experience discrimination and stigma. By 2010, if we do not act now, the number of those infected by HIV/AIDS could go as high as 10 million.


Despite these challenges -- and this is the good news -- China has made strides in its response.   Recently at a high-level panel of the 58th session of the UN General Assembly, Executive Vice Minister of Health Gao Qiang outlined China's five commitments of its response to HIV/AIDS, including improving law and regulations, providing free treatment and medicines to low-income HIV/AIDS patients and protecting their legitimate rights


Today, as I speak, senior Chinese leaders are visiting Ditan Hospital and meeting with people living with HIV/AIDS. Today this afternoon, the UN is launching jointly with the Ministry of Health the Joint Assessment Report on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control in China. The Report is a culmination of a year and a half of close dialogue on HIV/AIDS between the Chinese government and the UN system. Building on a comprehensive review of past efforts and lessons learned, it puts forward recommendations for the future. These two events are part of many activities during this week all over China that are trying to promote awareness of HIV/AIDS and fighting stigma and discrimination.


But, despite this recent progress, we cannot afford to be complacent. The unstopped march of the epidemic requires us to redouble our collective efforts.


The United Nations system in China is privileged to be here with China and with the Chinese people at this critical time in combating HIV/AIDS. There is a strong partnership with the government of China in these matters. We are particularly pleased and encouraged that China's leadership and institutions are gearing up for what can only be described as a people's campaign to deal with and overcome this most serious crisis.


Let me highlight some necessary aspects of this campaign:


1. Eliminating discrimination and stigma. All of us here have to commit ourselves to help people with HIV/AIDS not only live longer but also fundamentally live normal lives. This requires breaking the barriers of ignorance and attitudes in schools, in the work place and at play.


2. Taking the message to the provinces and township levels. China is large. We have a challenge to reach the million villages and towns of China. As in the past, China has overcome great obstacles through its enormous ability to mobilize vast numbers of people. We are at that stage again, and the UN system in China, in its modest way is prepared to help.


3. Building on what we know. Globally, the UN takes the position that HIV/AIDS is a problem that has a solution. Many countries around the globe are grappling with the same issues. Progress is possible. The UN's strength lies in helping access such experience. In China too there are very useful pilot experiences such as safe needle exchange among drug users in Guangxi, on marketing of condoms among sex workers in Hainan and promoting HIV/AIDS awareness in railway stations. In the spirit of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, we will cross the stream using these experiences as our stepping stones.


4. Focusing on high risk groups: on drug users, on sex workers and others. But, also going beyond. Though China remains a low prevalence country, we also have to recognize that already we are seeing transmission of the disease in the broader heterosexual population.


5. On treatment. The breakthroughs in efficacy and cost of drugs mean that we can and should ensure that treatment is an essential part of any HIV/Aids response strategy.


And, importantly, as Kofi Annan said in his message: We must continue to speak up openly about AIDS. No progress will be achieved by being timid. We need to ensure that we replace widespread stigma and fear with hope and support. Each and every one of us can create such hope and provide such support.


Thank you for being here with us on World AIDS Day and thank you for joining us in the campaign to combat HIV/AIDS in China and the world.



The following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message on the occasion of World AIDS Day, observed December 1:


Two years ago, the world's nations agreed that defeating HIV/AIDS would require commitment, resources and action. At the General Assembly's special session on HIV/AIDS in 2001, they adopted the Declaration of Commitment, a set of specific, time-bound targets for fighting the epidemic.


Today, we have the commitment. Our resources are increasing. But the action is still far short of what is needed.


Significant new funding to fight the epidemic has been pledged, both by individual governments and through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The vast majority of countries have in place broad national strategies to combat HIV/AIDS. A growing number of corporations are adopting policies on HIV/AIDS in the workplace. Increasingly, community and faith-based groups -- which have often taken the lead in the fight against AIDS -- are working as full partners with governments and others in mounting a coordinated response.


But, at the same time, the epidemic continues its lethal march around the world, with few signs of slowing down. In the course of the past year, every minute of every day, some 10 people were infected. In the hardest-hit regions, life expectancy is plummeting. HIV/AIDS is spreading at an alarming rate among women, who now account for half of those infected worldwide. And the epidemic is expanding most rapidly in regions which had previously been largely spared -- especially in Eastern Europe and across all of Asia, from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean.


We have failed to reach several of the Declaration's targets set for this year. Even more important, we are not on track to begin reducing the scale and impact of the epidemic by the target year of 2005. By then, we should have cut by a quarter the number of young people infected with HIV in the worst affected countries; we should have halved the rate at which infants become infected; and we should have comprehensive care programs in place everywhere. At the current rate, we will not achieve any of those targets by 2005.


Clearly, we must work even harder to match our commitment with the necessary resources and action. We cannot claim that competing challenges are more important, or more urgent. We must keep AIDS at the top of our political and practical agenda.


That is why we must continue to speak up openly about AIDS. No progress will be achieved by being timid, refusing to face unpleasant facts, or prejudging our fellow human beings -- still less by stigmatizing people living with HIV/AIDS. Let no one imagine that we can protect ourselves by building barriers between "us" and "them." In the ruthless world of AIDS, there is no us and them. And in that world, silence is death.


On this World AIDS Day, I urge you to join me in speaking up loud and clear about HIV/AIDS.  Join me in tearing down the walls of silence, stigma and discrimination that surround the epidemic.  Join me, because the fight against HIV/AIDS begins with you.


(China.org.cn December 1, 2003)

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