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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
Ambassador Hilario G. Davide, Jr.
May 21, 2007
My delegation expresses its appreciation to you and commends you for convening the General Assembly today to highlight once again the issue of HIV/AIDS. This initiative is very appropriate and timely as the United Nations moves closer to the halfway mark of its targets on the MDGs, including Goal 6, which is to halt and reverse by 2015, the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases. Now is also the time to know where the world’s progress against HIV/AIDS stands following the commitment made in 2006 by high-level leaders to promote universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
My delegation also takes this opportunity to thank the Secretary General for his report (A/61/816) that gives us a picture of the global progress to address HIV/AIDS. The report indicates that while we have already done many significant things, there are still much more that need to be done to ensure better institutional efforts, wider coverage and more sustainable and coherent responses.
The problem of HIV/AIDS is far from just being a mere medical or health problem. Because of the nature, characteristics and effects of the disease and the extent of its prevalence – now pandemic – HIV/AIDS has become a real developmental problem of unimaginable proportions. Achieving universal access, therefore, is a critical strategy to combat the disease, the scourge. But the breadth of access alone is not enough. We need to ensure that the quality of coverage is such that it comprises sustainable responses and not just quick emergency palliatives.
In the Philippines, there is still a low HIV prevalence, but recent statistics points to a hidden and growing course of the epidemic. For this reason, the country has to strongly uphold the principle of universal access. Our strategy towards universal access takes advantage of our local government units – the provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays – which enjoy local autonomy as mandated by the Constitution and implemented in the local Government Code of 1991. Efforts are, therefore, channeled through these various local government units, as well as with non-government organizations in order to reach out to all inhabitants as possible. We have organized local AIDS councils to ensure the HIV/AIDS responses would address or fit the particular needs of localities. Because local government units may not have the technical capacities to formulate and implement programs relating to HIV/AIDS, the government, at both the national and regional levels, provides expertise and technical assistance to the local units. For example, we have the Regional AIDS Assistance Teams. I must also add, Madame President, that this decentralization strategy assists us in “knowing our epidemic”, the first recommendation of the Secretary-General in his report, as this strategy can likewise provide an effective feedback mechanism in respect of the extent of the disease and the specific needs of communities.
We recognize that a sustainable response to HIV/AIDS demands that we effectively address the drivers of the epidemic. Because many of these factors are deeply ingrained in society, such as gender inequality, stigma and discrimination, and the failure to protect human rights, achieving the necessary changes or desired goals would not happen at once. Thus, we have to persevere in the process. The multi-faceted nature of the response to HIV/AIDS has pushed us to embark on an ongoing effort to strengthen the capacities of other government agencies in order to enable them to meaningfully contribute to the delivery of HIV-related responses within their respective mandates.
Part of the strategy of universal access is targeting prevention, treatment, care and support to the most at-risk populations of society, particularly the groups that practice high-risk behaviors. One of the more recent efforts in this area is the launching by the Philippines of the Joint Program on Migration and HIV/AIDS between the Department of Health and the Department of Labor and Employment, in partnership with the UN Country Team in the Philippines. This initiative provides avenues to increase access to HIV interventions and services by overseas Filipino workers. This was put in place to address the growing vulnerability of migrants to HIV/AIDS. This program dovetails with the HIV/AIDS interventions in the different phases of migration, namely pre-departure, on-site, return and reintegration phases. Another recent Philippine initiative to target vulnerable populations is our current work to design a system that would effectively address the situation of injecting drug users. Discussions are now underway to review existing legislation and policies to come up with an appropriate enabling policy environment to address this situation.
Despite many challenges, the Philippines has been relentless in accelerating HIV interventions. For example, through Round 6 of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Philippines will start implementing the program Scaling-up HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support, through enhanced voluntary counseling and testing and improved blood safety strategies. Another example is that, recently, the Philippines has just assessed the effectiveness of the 100% Condom Utilization Program (100% CUP) which was implemented in selected areas in the country since 1999. It follows that if the results of the assessment are encouraging, a wider-scale implementation of the program may be implemented.
Essential to scaling up HIV interventions in the country is forging enhanced partnerships with stakeholders. In the Philippines, we have strengthened the engagement with civil society groups, including church groups and faith-based organizations in the national AIDS response. The recent contributions of the Roman Catholic Church in building awareness and providing counseling and care to vulnerable and affected groups, along with its efforts to build the capacity of religious groups in providing basic information on HIV/AIDS, is noteworthy. Also, in partnership with the UNAIDS, efforts are now being undertaken by the Philippine National AIDS Council to provide better support to promote the meaningful engagement of Filipino people with HIV/AIDS in policies and programs.
Effective monitoring and evaluation of efforts, both at the national and global levels, is critical to combating the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The Philippines’ National HIV and AIDS Monitoring and Evaluation System, which is being implemented in nine (9) sites in the country, shows the country’s commitment to the principle of the “Three Ones” and the Universal Access Framework. We look forward to providing a comprehensive update on our country’s progress at the 2008 comprehensive and global AIDS review.
The alarming levels and rate of HIV/AIDS in the world indeed demand sustained genuine international cooperation.
The inadequacy of resources for HIV/AIDS remains a major stumbling block, especially for developing countries. The Secretary-General’s report mentions that, while global resource needs for HIV in low- and middle-income countries are estimated to be at $18 billion in 2007 and $22 billion in 2008, only about half of that requirement may be fulfilled. In this regard, we appreciate the global financial mechanisms that are in operation today, both intergovernmental and private, but we must continue to call for enhanced ways to ensure the predictability and sustainability of funding. Bilateral and multilateral funding support, coupled with enhanced financial priorities in favor of HIV funding at the national level, will scale up our progress and avoid backsliding in our efforts.
Finally, Madame President, we have to squarely face the need to overcome the barriers, in particular, the legal and trade barriers, to effective prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and care and support of its victims. Genuine international cooperation demands that strategies and tactics that undercut agreements and compromise the objective of universal access, in particular to life-saving anti-retroviral drugs, are not employed. In this regard, the Philippines reaffirms the agreements in Doha, at the WTO, particularly in the context of the TRIPS, that such agreements should not be used to hinder the greater good of protecting public health.
Thank you, Madame President.
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