Stefan Priesner: Opening Speech at the International Conference Dedicated to AIDS Day

Dec 1, 2015

I would like to welcome you at this important conference dedicated to World AIDS Day that shows the level of commitment of the Government of Uzbekistan towards diminishing new HIV infections, AIDS related deaths and discrimination as outlined in the Strategy of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS.

Indeed, this in line with highest level international commitments. I quote from the SG’s message at the occasion of HIV/AIDS Day.

“World leaders have unanimously committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September. This commitment reflects the power of solidarity to forge, from a destructive disease, one of the most inclusive movements in modern history.

We have a lot to learn from the AIDS response. One by one people stood up for science, human rights and the empowerment of all those living with HIV. And this is how we will end the epidemic: by moving forward together.” End of quote

Ending HIV/AIDS by 2030 - Despite progress this task is still daunting. Globally there are nearly 37 million people living with HIV and there are signs that in the region the epidemic continues to outpace the HIV response. Hence, there is still a need to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region and in Uzbekistan in particular.

This can best be achieved as the SG suggests through science, human rights and empowerment and moving together – coordinated efforts by different actors – government and non-government and beyond healthcare ‘service’.

In this context the UN appreciates that the fight against HIV/AIDS has been a very important cooperation area of the GoU and the UNCT. UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNODC and WHO all had their role in supporting the Government’s efforts. Also in the UNDAF 2016-2020 HIV/AIDS features prominently.

While we are proud of the coverage of more than 10,000 (?) patients through ARV treatment, we know that the prevention side of the epidemic is equally important.

Since in the region the disease is concentrated in (most at risk) populations, it is essential to ensure that these groups can protect themselves from HIV infection; that they are fully informed and have full access to gender differentiated prevention, treatment, care and support services. Stronger joint efforts are needed to empower key {most at risk} population groups

In this regard it is important to acknowledge and tackle stigma, discrimination and criminalization of populations at higher risk of HIV exposure and ensure ART coverage for everybody based on the latest WHO recommendation - to start the treatment as soon as person is known to be infected.

As the AIDS Day falls within the “16 Days” UN campaign to end violence against women, I would like to emphasize that it is important to closely look into the different HIV needs of women and girls and ensure strengthening preventative measures to address sexual and gender based violence.

We need to look into the system of social protection and continue strengthening it to ensure universal inclusion of people living with HIV.

We need to look closely at young people and ensure they are fully empowered to protect themselves from HIV. For this, a special focus of national programmes should be on young girls and women.

Treatment – prevention – social protection – youth. HIV response is a long term investment and means a multi-dimensional and –actor approach. Science, human rights, empowerment, moving together. It is important to review HIV response from these aspects in order to ensure adequate coverage, partnerships and resources for HIV programming.

I would like to thank our partners in the Minsitry of Health, Republican AIDS Center and others for long term cooperation in the area of HIV spread prevention and wish everybody fruitful discussions today and tomorrow.

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