We would like to thank the Secretary General for an interesting report on the achievements made since the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS in 2011. We are pleased to see that the most affected countries are intensifying prevention and access to treatment.
However, we need to repeat what we stated in 2011; there is no room for complacency. The epidemic is not over, and big challenges are still ahead of us. The epidemic is continuing to grow in several regions of the world, especially in countries where it is mainly driven by drug use.
The HIV related work is entering into a new phase: For people with access to treatment, managing HIV will be similar to managing other lifelong chronic diseases. Persons living with HIV will develop non-communicable diseases. In many countries they will constitute a large proportion of patients with such diseases. In other words, HIV needs to be treated as both an infectious disease, and a chronic disease.
We have a generation of children who have lived with HIV all their lives. These children are now adolescents. They need sexual and reproductive health services to make independent choices regarding their own sexuality and fertility. Young persons living with HIV, especially women, need access to family planning and other reproductive health services.
We need to intensify what we do among the groups that are hardest to reach. If HIV is not addressed in such groups, the epidemic will continue to spread. It is therefore important for public health to focus more actively on prevention among groups of people at increased risk.
In Norway we are working to contribute to the goals of the Political Declaration from 2011. We are still facing challenges related to increasing incidence of HIV among men who have sex with men, and care for immigrants living with HIV. This is despite considerable efforts invested in these areas. Persons living with HIV are unfortunately facing a lot of stigma in the Norwegian society. Over the past couple of years, we have focused on issues linked to HIV exposure and transmission. We have focused on improving the penal code, through a national law commission and cooperation with UNAIDS.
The history of the work with HIV may in many ways be called a game changer, as new partnerships emerged and changed the way we approach public health challenges. The groups of people at high risk of infection, as well as those living with HIV, demonstrated leadership and creativity. They partnered with governments and private actors. This led to changes, including in pricing of medicine, adherence and prevention.
We still need the active participation of these groups, regardless of whether they have made life style choices that are not generally accepted or even legal in some countries. These groups may hold the key to rolling the epidemic back.
The challenge in front of us is complex. In many ways we have harvested “the low hanging fruits”. To get further we need to move in new ways, strengthen unusual partnerships and ensure participation of specifically affected groups; prisoners, drug users, sexual minorities (LGBT), persons who sell sex, and most notably: young people and women.