Photo: Emma Kwesiga Lydersen, The Norwegian Mission.Photo: Emma Kwesiga Lydersen, The Norwegian Mission

GA: High-level meeting on HIV/AIDS

Last updated: 6/10/2011 // Norwegian Minister of the Environment and International Development, H.E. Mr. Erik Solheim, presented Norway's statement to the General Assembly in the high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS.

Mr. President; Fellow Delegates; Friends,

HIV and AIDS are among the deadliest catastrophes that has ever hit the human kind.  More people are dead from HIV and AIDS than those that died in the First World War; the number is ten times higher than the number of dead in the Vietnam war, and most certainly a hundred times higher than most of the wars that we see today. So this is an absolute catastrophe, and the suffering is immense.

So is the strength. I still recall the young lady I met in Malawi, close to Lilongwe. She took care of five children on her own, striving hard to survive; but still when her sister died, she took upon herself to raise all the three children of her sister. She did it in silence, with dignity, and with that same strength that should inspire politicians and civil servants of this world.

We are on the verge of success in our fight against HIV and AIDS. We are bringing the number of new people affected by the disease down; prices on medicine are reduced; more people are assisted. But we are far from victory, and far from the absolute success we need. It would be completely inexcusable if we started relent in our efforts. We are zooming in on success, and exactly because of that, we should strengthen our resolve rather than doing the opposite.

What does it mean to get to zero? There is no other aim, no other slogan that we could put up than bringing down the number of people dying from this disease to zero. When medicines are cheap, people can live their entire life with the disease. There is simply no excuse for so many people still dying. The aim is clear; zero victims from HIV and AIDS. How do we reach that aim? Well, first of all we must mobilize the resources.

I am proud to say that Norway is one of nations that have one percent of the GDP used for development purposes, and we are also increasing the amount of money we are spending on fighting HIV and AIDS through the Global Fund and other institutions. We cannot reduce the resources when we want full victory.

To get to zero, we must also ensure those affected access to affordable and effective medicines. I want to pay tribute to all those who have contributed to price reduction on HIV and AIDS medicines – UNITAID, The Clinton Foundation and many others have made certain that affordable medicines are now available for those affected. And since the medicines are on the market, it is a shame that they are not available for everyone.

Then, reaching the zero aim means integrating the fight against HIV and AIDS into the normal health care of all nations. Reaching the zero-aim also means making certain that those who are affected by HIV and AIDS have decent lives. And I want to pay tribute to those nations – the United States, China, Namibia, Ukraine and others – that have, since we last met, opened up for HIV and AIDS victims to visit their countries by removing any hindrance or restriction on movement for people living with this disease.

Moving on to the most controversial; getting to zero requires fighting all the stigmas. Individuals may take any opinion they like. But states cannot in the 21st century still continue to underpin stigmas. That is simply inexcusable. We must remove all stigmas, whether it is on transsexual persons, on homosexuals, on drug-abusers or on sex-workers. Stigmas are not acceptable because of justice, and because they are a hindrance in our fight against HIV and AIDS. It reduces our efficiency in the struggle. Thus stigmas must be removed and fought.

To reach the zero new disease victims aim, we must also empower women. The fight against HIV and AIDS is simply a part of the women’s emancipation movement. Most new victims of HIV and AIDS are young women; most newly affected victims are young women. This must stop, and we must of course also fight the gender-based violence that is sometimes the reason behind disease. So we must see the women’s perspective on this matter. 

Mr. President,

Zooming in on the zero-target, we must empower young people. Our Crown Princess has been in the forefront of inspiring young people in Norway and globally to see their part in the struggle. Young people are those most affected by the disease and must also take up the challenge of informing their fellow young people about sexual and reproductive health, taking up the political struggle against stigmas in their nations, and make certain that ministers provide enough resources for health care. That is a new challenge for our young people, inspired by, among many others, our Crown Princess.

Finally, I regret to say that some faith-based organizations have not played a very helpful role prior to this conference. Because of that, I pay a special tribute to those many faith-based organizations, coming from Christianity, Islam or from any other world religion, that are handling the issue of removing stigmas as well as the issue of providing sexual and reproductive health to all citizens of this globe. We need in particular the faith-based organizations in this struggle.

Fellow delegates, we are very close to success on this matter. Humanity has removed smallpox from the face of the globe. We are on the way to becoming very successful on the issue of measles. The next huge target is to become as successful on HIV and AIDS as we were on smallpox, and it is in our hands. We should simply follow the Nike slogan: Just do it!

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