This year marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day ( WAD ), commemorated annually on 1 December by individuals and organisations across the world to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic.
United Nations Member States have committed to scale up their response to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Investments made in the AIDS responses over the last 10 years are starting to bear fruit and an increasing number of people in developing countries are receiving life-lengthening antiretroviral drugs.
However, an estimated 33 million people are still living with HIV, and there were 2.7 million new HIV infections and some 2 million AIDS-related deaths in 2007. For every two people put on antiretroviral drugs, another five become newly infected.
Sustaining leadership requires the world to focus on AIDS every day of the year. “By investing in AIDS we can halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and move forward in our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals ,” says the UN.
The 20th anniversary event is being marked under the theme: “Lead, empower, deliver”.
Secretary-General on World AIDS DAY
Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon, in a statement ahead of the day, stressed the need to “sustain leadership”, build upon achievements, and maintain momentum. “The need to lead, empower and deliver on AIDS is as real and urgent as ever,” he said.
“We have to end the stigma and discrimination that still stop so many people from learning how to prevent HIV and get treatment,” stressed Mr. BAN.
Fewer people are being infected with HIV, and fewer people are dying of AIDS, he noted. “This success owes itself to people all over the world who are taking the lead to stop AIDS,” said the secretary-General.
Governments, he said, are delivering on their promises to scale up universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. However there is no room for complacency. “AIDS will not go away any time soon. People are still being infected with HIV faster than we can get them on treatment. AIDS is still one of the top ten causes of death worldwide, and it is the number one killer inAfrica ,” stated the Secretary-General.
An audio file of Secretary-General’s remarks will be available on 1 December in MP3 format on the UN Audio Library web site.
The joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on Friday, 28 November launched a new report: AIDS Outlook that provides perspectives on some of the most pressing issues that will confront policymakers and leaders as they respond to the challenges presented by AIDS in 2009.
“In many ways the year ahead will be a year of transition—and acceleration,” said a UNAIDS statement. Many countries are reviewing their national strategies on AIDS, and “even though political commitment for AIDS is at an all-time high, recent developments in the financial world will test the resilience of many,” noted UNAIDS.
The report, the UN agency said, is an opportunity for reflection on what has been possible to achieve with leadership as well as for refocusing on some key areas that are impeding progress. “It is not a ‘how to manual’ or a ‘policy statement’, but provides insights based on evidence on new ways to build on and improve the AIDS response,” says the statement.
The UN Inter-Agency Working Group on AIDS (IAWG) is supporting the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of WAD at the historicRiverside Church in New York , 490 Riverside Drive - between 120th and 122nd streets.
The event at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, 30 November will be an evening that underscores the need to lead, empower and deliver more resolutely on AIDS.
The Secretary-General’s message to mark the Day will be delivered by video. Other speakers at the event will be United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Goodwill Ambassador, Mpule Kwelagobe, chairperson of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, and the speaker of the New York City Council Christine Quinn.
The Lavender Light Gospel Choir will perform during the programme and there will be a reception and entertainment by The Karla Harby Outcats Jazz Trio. HIV and hepatitis testing will be available at an information fair following the reception.
The support of the IAWG to this event aims among other things to bring the UN andNew York communities together and, in the process, cultivate a stronger relationship between UN entities, member states and civil society organizations.
It is also to sustain the momentum generated by the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS and the 2008 High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS as well as motivate various interest groups to be personally involved in the response to AIDS.