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Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

 

Mr President

In 2011, I had the honour to join with my colleague, Ambassador Charles Ntwaagae of Botswana, who spoke earlier, to co-facilitate the drafting and our negotiations for the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS. In that Declaration, as we all know, we all agreed to a set of bold targets for a world free of AIDS and this year’s Report of the Secretary-General gives us some reason to be optimistic at the progress.

Increased outreach in many countries to HIV prevention and treatment services is a direct factor in the global decline in new infections and AIDS-related deaths. The news that half of the global reductions in new infections have been among newborns is testament to increased investments in treatment for HIV-positive women.

But while these achievements should be celebrated, much obviously remains to be done.

During the course of this afternoon’s session, an estimated 850 people will be newly infected with HIV.

Over 580 will have died. The number of people currently living with HIV is one and a half times the population of my own country, Australia.

Women between the ages of 15 and 49 confront the stark reality that AIDS is the leading cause of death for their age group.

The accelerated progress towards the target of 15 million people living with HIV accessing antiretroviral treatment is obviously welcome but we are only just over the halfway mark.

Nearly three quarters of the children needing treatment are missing out. And key populations – including sex workers, people who inject drugs, and men who have sex with men – continue to be disproportionately affected due to their vulnerable status in society.  The barriers to treatment and services for these people must be removed.

Mr President

Obviously, our work is unfinished.

Complacency is an enemy. So too are the prevailing attitudes in some societies, to those who are living with, or at greatest risk, of HIV infection. Last year I expressed alarm that few countries had started the process of incorporating the commitments, targets, actions and timelines of the Political Declaration into national HIV strategies and financing plans.

A year later there is stronger political leadership and accountability of the HIV response in many countries.   We congratulate those low and middle income countries increasing the share of their domestic resources for the HIV response.  We hope this encourages others to step up their efforts to realise an AIDS-free world. It is disappointing to read in the Secretary-General’s report that many programs for key populations at higher risk remain underfunded domestically.  HIV prevention and treatment services must be the responsibility of national governments, especially for these populations. Australia is keeping the priority and at risk populations at the centre of our efforts, and stepping up our work to engage younger generations in the response.

A key factor in our efforts to minimize the spread of HIV has been the use of harm reduction and minimization programs for people who inject drugs.  The result is we are close to eliminating transmission among drug users.

For every dollar we invested in these programs between 2000 and 2009, four dollars were returned in health care cost savings and most importantly, over 32,000 infections averted.

Mr President

We all must heed the call for a more strategic investment approach for the HIV response. We need the courage to change our approach to HIV prevention and treatment. We must work smarter and stop investing in ineffective programming and inefficient governance architecture.

An investment approach isn’t just about making decisions about where to invest resources more effectively.  It also means being focused on stronger, more sustainable investments.

The investment approach will go a long way to generating savings that will allow us to reassess the global funding shortfall.

During 2013, Australia will be the Vice Chair of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board and we will seek to support UNAIDS’ efforts to encourage countries to invest more strategically and to respond more effectively to the needs of those most at risk. In July 2014, Australia will host the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.  This will be the last International AIDS Conference before the post-2015 era begins.  The conference will showcase examples of strategic investments that are producing real results for populations most at risk.  Results that will help drive us to a world of Zero new infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths.

To conclude Mr President

Let me thank Michel Sidibé and all his team at UNAIDS.  Their optimistic vision and determination are indispensable and we owe them great thanks. Time is running out to deliver on the targets we set ourselves in 2011. We must renew our commitment to them and show we can mobilise a truly international effort to end the AIDS epidemic – an achievable objective for the first time.  But one which will disappear without determined, stronger effort. Thank you.

Australia: Making a difference for the small and medium countries of the world