Statement by Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the occasion of World AIDS Day

Dec 1, 2009

The international community observes World AIDS Day each year on December 1st. On this day we focus this year on the need for effective HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment, and support. Data released by UNAIDS this week in its 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update suggests that new HIV infections around the world have been reduced by seventeen percent since the 2001 signature of the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. Over the past five years, there have also been significant successes in increasing access to life saving treatment, with over four million people in developing countries now accessing necessary medication and approximately 2.9 million lives already saved.

The most significant successes in the response to HIV/AIDS have used human rights based programming to translate good public health practice and scientific innovation into real results for people and communities. This has facilitated the effective participation of marginalized and vulnerable populations in responses to the epidemic, and has driven the global campaign to lower the prices of key drugs and prevention technologies. Unfortunately, success is uneven across regions, countries, and populations. Far too often, prevention programmes are still not reaching those most in need. For every two people put on treatment, five are newly infected. Too little is being done in too many places to empower girls and women. Stigmatizing homosexuals and refusing to provide harm reduction services for drug users also sets back prevention and treatment work.

As well, the economic crisis of 2009 has resulted in cuts to treatment programmes which have been keeping people alive, saving children from being orphaned, and keeping workforces productive and vibrant. UNDP is playing a leading role in the global response to HIV/AIDS as a co-sponsor of UNAIDS and as a major partner of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. UNDP supports policies, programmes, and learning to link action against HIV/AIDS with action on other health, development, and human rights priorities. These include the promotion of gender equality, the fight against poverty, and responses to maternal mortality and infectious diseases.

UNDP also supports the wider UN system’s co-ordinated response to the epidemic and organizes the annual ‘Red Ribbon Awards’ on behalf of UNAIDS to honor and support communities at the frontline of the response to the epidemic. With just six years left to reach the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, we have learned that effective action on HIV/AIDS is essential to the human rights based and broader development agenda. UNDP is committed to supporting countries and communities in these efforts.

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