The Norwegian Government’s efforts to respond to HIV and AIDS internationally aims to address sensitive issues that not everybody want to talk about.
It is part of our strategy is to focus on youth and sexual rights, and on sexual minorities and other vulnerable and high risk groups. The gender focus is essential as mother to child transmission prevention is an area that was lagging behind in the global response. This is a shame to be rectified.
Success in the world’s long-term response to AIDS depends on addressing the stigma and discrimination that make young people particularly vulnerable to HIV.
In June 2009 the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit, in collaboration with the project aids2031, will hold a Young Leaders Summit in Oslo to unite young leaders in the ongoing fight against AIDS related stigma and discrimination.
On this background, Norway welcomes the tone of the present report.
It does not cover up the difficult questions. It is clear on issues and it sets out direction. This is the kind of leadership we expect from the UN, and this is what it takes to halt new transmission of HIV and manage the impact of the AIDS pandemic.
We know that AIDS is not over, and will not be over for many years to come. Even with the best scenarios for effective prevention, new millions will require treatment year after year, at a cost that will mean a tremendous burden on national health budgets and international financing.
Health is not expensive. But it is not for free either.
This is why the AIDS response cannot make it to universal access on its own. We also know that many countries will not achieve the Health MDGs without managing the AIDS response. The social and structural factors that increase vulnerability to HIV are also factors that represent barriers for the MDGs, such as so clearly demonstrated in issues of gender based discrimination, disempowerment of women and the associated vulnerability of women and girls to HIV.
We cannot any longer deal with AIDS with one hand and the other Millennium Development Goals with the other – now is the time for a handshake.
A case in point is the need to address maternal and neonatal mortality , prevention of mother to child transmission, treatment and care for mother and child and reproductive health and rights in ways that mutually strengthen access to services and makes the most of resources – whether we talk about funding, skilled human resources, infrastructure or drugs and supply systems.
This was made abundantly clear during our debate on global health yesterday.
We note the strong message in the report on the need for political, legal and programmatic steps to deal with stigma and discrimination, and the need to review laws that present obstacles to effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for vulnerable sub-populations, or in other ways generate HIV-related stigma and discourage people from learning or disclosing their HIV status.
Norway underlines the importance of the work of the International Task Team on travel restrictions and of the SG himself in raising attention to laws that restrict the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV based on HIV-positive status only. Such restrictions and the discrimination encountered by people living with HIV/AIDS associated with these laws in some 60 countries, have proved to feed stigma, make negative impact on national AIDS programs and achievement of universal access in these countries. Continued strategic advocacy and action at global, regional and national levels is now important, to question the basis for imposing such restrictions and work for eliminating them.
Finally I want to congratulate the new UNAIDS EXD MIchel Sidibé at this stage and say we are ready to work with him now, at ECOSOC and thereafter.