U.N. Urges ($22 Billion) Tripling of Funds by '08
to Halt AIDS: UNGASS Week at UN
By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN
Published: June 1, 2006
UNITED NATIONS, May 31 - Stopping the epidemic of AIDS will require $22 billion a year by 2008 and possibly more in the following years, officials of the United Nations AIDS program said Wednesday. The $22 billion is nearly triple the $8.3 billion spent last year by all sources, including governments and the private sector.
Khensani Mavasa of South Africa, addressing the United Nations Wednesday, called for making condoms available to all to fight AIDS.
Urging that countries spend more, Secretary General Kofi Annan said a costlier and more sustained effort was needed because AIDS "has spread further, faster and with more catastrophic long-term effects than any other disease."
"It took the world far too long to wake up" to a pandemic that has infected more than 60 million people, of whom more than 25 million have died, Mr. Annan said.
Of the projected $22 billion figure, half is needed for prevention and a quarter for treatment and care of infected people. The remainder is for care of orphans, children at risk of becoming infected and program costs.
Mr. Annan and Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of the AIDS program, spoke as the General Assembly began a three-day meeting aimed at renewing the political commitment urged in 2001 and setting new goals for expenditures and for measuring progress in the battle against AIDS.
The General Assembly also heard from Khensani Mavasa of South Africa, who became the first person known to be infected with H.I.V. to address a plenary session about AIDS. Such sessions are normally reserved for United Nations officials and delegates from member countries.
Ms. Mavasa urged that the new declaration not be "a document of empty promises," but "a platform for targets based on action." Ms. Mavasa said that she had been raped and abused, and recommended setting a goal of ending violence against women.
Describing her life as one "under the power of men and the institutions they run," Ms. Mavasa called for making condoms available to everyone and creating a culture that encouraged their regular use.
Mr. Annan urged delegates to challenge countries that are trying to avoid goals that mention gay people, prostitutes, intravenous-drug users and others at high risk of becoming infected.
"The governments concerned need to be realistic and responsible," Mr. Annan said. He also said that "if we are here to try to end the epidemic, we will not succeed by putting our head in the sand and pretending that these people do not exist or they do not need help."
On Tuesday the United Nations said there were signs that the AIDS epidemic was slowing in a few countries. The favorable news was based on report cards that member countries submitted, as required by the declaration in 2001.
But the report cards showed that most countries missed more goals than they met. More than 20 million people have become infected since the 2001 meeting.
The first AIDS cases were detected 25 years ago. Now countries must fundamentally change the way they think and deal with the epidemic, moving from crisis management to "sustained attention and the kind of 'anything it takes' resolve that member states apply to preventing global financial meltdowns or wars," Dr. Piot said.
With increased financing and H.I.V. services, along with more effective political leadership, he said, the world could achieve universal access to prevention and treatment in the next few years.
A crucial partner is the private sector, United Nations officials said.
On Wednesday the Global Business Coalition on H.I.V./AIDS released a study showing that private companies have become more likely to provide treatment for employees as the cost of antiretroviral drugs has fallen over the last six years, to $140 to $300 a year, from $10,000.
In African countries with a high prevalence, more than 70 percent of the companies surveyed are fully subsidizing access to H.I.V. treatment, the coalition said. The study, conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton, found an increasing trend to expand such treatment to employees' dependents. Companies are also offering access to voluntary testing and counseling, said the coalition, which includes 216 companies.
Annan tells leaders to help prostitutes on AIDS
01 Jun 2006 03:55:45 GMT
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS, May 31 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged world leaders on Wednesday to protect the most marginal groups in society from AIDS -- prostitutes, drug users and homosexuals.
Annan and General Assembly President Jan Eliasson opened a three-day conference on AIDS that includes thousands of activists, ministers and diplomats to assess progress so far.
To combat AIDS, "It means we must work closely and constructively with those who have too often been marginalized -- sex workers, injecting drug users and men who have sex with men," Annan said.
"We need to be realistic," Annan said. "If we are here to try and end the epidemic and fight the epidemic, we will not succeed by putting our heads in the sand and pretending these people do not exist or do not need help."
According to a major UNAIDS report released on Tuesday, the spread of the pandemic had slowed but drug treatment is only available to less than half of those infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Still, many delegations, particularly Islamic ones and some conservative Latin American nations, refuse to mention prostitutes, drug users and homosexuals, in a final statement now under negotiation.
They prefer citing "vulnerable" groups, fearing that specific mention would endorse these groups. Also in dispute are rights for girls and sex education, among other issues.
The United States took the same position at the last major U.N. AIDS conference in 2001 but U.S. officials said this no longer was the case.
"We would love the mention of vulnerable populations -- generally, specifically," said Assistant Secretary of State Kirsten Silverberg, who heads the State Department office responsible for U.N. affairs.
But an early marked-up draft showed U.S. objections to a European proposal on services for homosexuals, sex workers and drug users. The United States rejected the paragraph mainly because it called for "harm reduction," a euphemism for needle exchanges, which Washington opposes.
WOMEN AT RISK
Annan also stressed the increase of women contracting the disease, especially in sub-Sahara Africa. Of the more than 38 million people infected worldwide, 17 million are women, three-quarters of them in Africa, said the U.N. report.
Particularly disadvantaged are women who have been raped, including child brides by their husbands and women who are never diagnosed and treated.
"I believe that we are having such a big epidemic, among other reasons, because of the lack of control of women over sexuality," Dr. Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS, the leading group campaigning against the pandemic.
The three-day meeting is timed to the 25th anniversary of the first documented AIDS cases on June 5, 1981. It is aimed at setting guidelines for universal treatment and prevention.
Piot said he hoped the meeting will generate long-term funding for HIV/AIDS, which needs some $20 billion annually by 2010. Spending in 2005 met its target of $8 billion.
The United States is by far the largest donor, with President George W. Bush having pledged $15 billion over five years. But Dr. Mark Dybul, acting U.S. global AIDS coordinator, aid Washington did not believe in "large-scale international targets" because each country had to set its own.
However, the final declaration is at an impasse, said Adrienne Germain, president of the International Women's Health Coalition, who has been following AIDS debates for two decades.
Even some diplomats from Africa are going back on agreements their leaders had reached in early May, she said. "There is no leadership as far as I can see ... on many issues."
UN hears plea for HIV medication
An HIV positive woman has asked world leaders to make medicines available to people with HIV and not to neglect the needs of women and children.
South African Khensani Mavasa made her plea to the UN general assembly - the first time that a person with HIV has addressed the international body.
South Africa's health department responded by promising Ms Mavasa medication when she needs it.
South Africa, where 5m people have HIV, has been accused of ignoring HIV/Aids.
"Because of scientific advances of the past 25 years, I have hope that when time comes for me to take treatment, it will be available," Ms Mavasa told leaders who had gathered for a special UN conference on Aids in New York.
"The entire world's HIV positive people deserve this hope. All the 14,000 more who will be infected by end of today deserve this hope."
She pointed out that women constitute nearly 60% of the world's 40.3m HIV-positive people.
"Among young people in Africa, women constitute 77% of new infections," said Ms Mavasa, the deputy chair of South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign, who was speaking on behalf of the International Women's Health Coalition.
"I call on all African leaders sitting here, to protect and promote the human rights of all people and vulnerable groups, particularly women and girls."
South Africa's health ministry - which has been criticised by TAC for many years over its perceived reluctance to endorse anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs - praised Ms Mavasa for the "maturity" of her address to the UN.
"The Ministry of Health would like to reassure Mavasa that at the time when she needs ARVs, she will be able to access them free of charge from an accredited-government health facility," the ministry said in a statement.
The statement contrasted Ms Mavasa's address with the "unbecoming behaviour" of TAC chairperson Zackie Achmat who recently accused the government of lying about the extent of its HIV treatment programme.
Annan Urges World Leaders in AIDS Fight
(AP) By NICK WADHAMS , 05.31.2006, 08:24 PM
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged world leaders Wednesday to face reality and understand that to stop the spread of AIDS, they must protect the people most vulnerable to virus.
In unusually forceful comments, Annan was essentially hoping to spark action among leaders gathered for a three-day General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS meant to chart a course on fighting the virus and delivering treatment to all those afflicted by it.
A day after a major U.N. report found the disease had slowed in its spread but is still a grave epidemic, representatives of civil society groups said Islamic nations don't want any mention of "vulnerable groups" - a catch phrase that includes homosexuals, sex workers and drug users - as the world discusses future action on fighting AIDS.
"We need to be realistic. We need to be able to protect the most vulnerable," Annan told reporters. "We will not succeed by putting our head in the sand and pretending that these people do not exist or they do not need help."
The comments addressed what will be one of several controversial issues faced by the summit. Civil society groups and aid groups in the field say the issue of vulnerable populations is central to combatting AIDS. They also want a focus on empowering women and giving comprehensive sexual education to kids.
However, many countries, including Islamic nations and some conservative Latin American nations, have opposed those ideas, largely for ideological reasons.
In a split with its stance from 2001, the United States said it supported mention of marginalized and vulnerable groups.
"We would love the mention of vulnerable populations - generally, specifically, we have no objection," said Kirsten Silverberg, who heads the State Department office responsible for U.N. matters.
Earlier Wednesday, Annan warned the meeting that the world has fallen far short of its promises five years ago to fight the virus. Efforts to fight AIDS among women and children have failed and young people still have little understanding of AIDS, he said.
According to the report released Tuesday, a worldwide survey has found that nearly 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS. India now has the largest number of AIDS infections, but the epidemic still remains at its worst in sub-Saharan Africa, where per capita rates continue to climb in several countries.
Women's vulnerability to the disease continues to increase, with more than 17 million women infected worldwide - nearly half the global total - and more than three-quarters of them living in sub-Saharan Africa, the report found.
The virus "has spread further, faster and with more catastrophic long-term effects than any other disease," Annan said. "Its impact has become a devastating obstacle to the progress of humankind."
The three-day meeting comes a week before the 25th anniversary of the first documented AIDS cases - June 5, 1981. It is meant to review promises made in a similar conference in 2001, and chart a course to provide universal access for AIDS prevention and treatment.
Civil society groups said they feared that there was not a real sense of urgency among diplomats at the meeting to put forward specific proposals or shed outdated ideas about the virus.
"Even though AIDS should be everybody's problem and issue, and everyone should care about it, I'm sorry to say that for the most part the diplomats in this building either don't care or don't know," said Adrienne Germain, president of the International Women's Health Coalition.
Most of the targets from 2001 have not been met. Among the biggest failures was the so-called "3 by 5" target - of getting treatment to 3 million poor people infected with AIDS by the end of last year.
Peter Piot, head of the U.N. AIDS agency, said he hoped the meeting will generate new funding to fight the disease, which needs between $18 billion and $22 billion each year to be fought effectively. It gets about $10 billion a year now.
"We need to commit to a strategic approach that recognizes AIDS both as a long-term priority as well as an emergency that requires an immediate response," Piot said. "In other words, we need to run a marathon at the pace of a sprint."
Yet many nations, including the United States, have resisted setting large targets, and appeared unlikely to change their stance. The U.S. delegation, for example, wanted to strike language from a final declaration that would call for universal access to treatment by 2010.
Britain's development secretary, Hilary Benn, planned to call for poor nations to develop 10-year plans to fight HIV/AIDS, the British Foreign Office said in a news release. Benn will also ask the international community to "back these plans with long-term and predictable finance."
U.N.: Protect young women from HIV/AIDS
UNITED NATIONS, May 31 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on member states to combat HIV/AIDS infection among young women who suffer double the rate of young men.
He made the plea Wednesday at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly's special high-level meeting on AIDS marking five years since the world body's declaration against the disease in 2001.
Most countries have failed to meet the targets they pledged to achieve in their declaration at the assembly's special session on AIDS in 2001, including making sure that young people have an accurate understanding of HIV and how the virus can infect them, Annan said.
"The world has been unconscionably slow in meeting one of the most vital aspects of the struggle -- measures to fight the spread of AIDS among women and girls," he said, recalling that in the declaration, countries pledged to adopt national strategies to promote women's rights, protect women and girls from all forms of discrimination, and empower them to protect themselves against HIV.
"Yet today, infections among women are increasing in every part of the world, particularly among young women," the secretary-general said.
Globally, more than twice as many young women are infected as young men.
Annan welcomed Khensani Mavasa of South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign as "the first person living with HIV to address the General Assembly." Other infected persons may have spoken to the body, but none was identified as such.
A dozen heads of State, more than 100 cabinet ministers and some 1,000 representatives of civil society and the private sector were expected to attend the meeting.
TAC: We can't support government's lies
Pretoria, South Africa
30 May 2006 03:30
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) marched in Pretoria on Tuesday, saying it could not support the "lies" the government was telling the United Nations about its treatment programme.
"We as the TAC cannot support the lies that government is telling the UN. The first lie is that we have the biggest [treatment] programme in the world," said TAC chairperson Zackie Achmat.
"The truth is that we have the biggest need in the world and we are not meeting that need."
Earlier in the day Achmat said they were marching on the Union Buildings in solidarity with the campaigners attending a UN conference on the disease on Wednesday.
The group of about 2 000 marchers also aimed to put pressure on all governments attending the meeting to adopt HIV/Aids treatment policies.
Achmat said truth, leadership and science were at the core of appropriately dealing with the pandemic in the country.
The group also handed over a memorandum to two representatives of the Presidency, outlining their demands for Aids treatment in the country and the stance it required government to take on the issue. The memorandum was given to the Presidency as the TAC felt its interactions with Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang had thus far proved fruitless.
Amongst others, the memorandum called for an end to "state-endorsed" denial on the disease, and for President Thabo Mbeki and the health minister to commit to ending what it termed unscientific messages about the disease.
It also wanted the law to be enforced against those taking advantage of the vulnerability of people with HIV/Aids.
Social issues, such as gender-based violence and the legacy of the migrant-labour system in the mining industry, were also highlighted by the memorandum as requiring government's attention.
Achmat urged for those governments who had not applied treatment policies by the next UN Aids conference in 2010 to be charged with "crimes against humanity".
The health department at first refused a place in the official South African delegation to the conference to the TAC and the Aids Law Project. The department later extended an invitation to the TAC, which the TAC turned down because other pressure groups were still barred from the delegation.
"Our delegation has already arrived in New York and our deputy chairperson, Khensani Mavasa from Limpopo, who is openly living with HIV, will be addressing the high-level meeting," said Achmat.
Although the group was travelling independently of government they would still "have access to all the conference activities".
Achmat said the trip had been funded by TAC sponsors.
"We say to government: We don't need your permission to speak truth to power! We have always spoken truth to power and will continue to do so!" Achmat said to the crowd. -- Sapa