In the summer of 1981, here in New York City, people started dying. The doctors did not understand why. The family and friends of the deceased did not understand why people who had been healthy just a few months before, suddenly had an immune system that more or less collapsed.
The first article about this mystical new disease here in the United States was in The New York Times on July 3rd, almost exactly 33 years ago. Its title was “Rare cancer seen in 41 homosexuals”. Because as these deaths were largely concentrated in the gay community, and it was difficult to understand why this was happening, the disease was in the beginning even called the “gay cancer”.
Today we know that this was not the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic globally, but it was the start of the deadly epidemic here in the United States.
It was also the start of the stigma that people living with HIV/AIDS had to confront in the years to come. Today we of course know that Hiv/AIDS is not a disease that only affects people with a certain sexual orientation, it affects everyone, - and the epidemic is now on every continent, affecting women, men, and children, young and old.
But, in the years since 1981, there has also been progress. We now know a lot more about the virus itself, and how the prevent it from spreading even further.
Considerable progress has been made in the response to the AIDS epidemic globally, but equally significant gaps remain. Without addressing these gaps we will not be able to get the HIV-epidemic under control. We therefore must take care of our unfinished business now, and continue to make HIV and AIDS our business also after 2015.
Norway would like to thank the Secretary General for an excellent report and a thorough analysis of the current situation and challenges related to HIV globally.
Norway is pleased to note the significant global reduction in new infections. The sharp reduction in mother to child transmission proves that our joint efforts yield results.
The increasing number of HIV-infected people that receives care and treatment leads to increased health and wellbeing of themselves, their partners and their families.
But in order to bring the epidemic under complete control we also must tackle the shortfalls of our response.
First; we note with concern that even if financing is improwing, we are short of the funding required. A shared responsibility for financing is important so that the international community is able to sustain and increase investments up until, and after, 2015. Available funds need to be spent more efficiently. We all need to fulfil our commitments to financing.
Second; the rate of new infections is still too high. To control the epidemic, primary prevention efforts must be re-emphasised.
Third; it is unacceptable that infected children are half as likely as adults to have access to antiretroviral therapy. Child-friendly medication is on the market and needs to be available to all who need it.
Fourth; young people in general – and young women in particular – are more likely to be infected by HIV, and are more likely to die from AIDS. Youth need information, including comprehensive sexuality education, access to services, and to be able to participate in decision making that concerns them.
Fifth; we need to focus on the groups we know are disproportionally affected, the so-called “key populations”. We will not be able to stop the HIV-epidemic until we stop new infections among men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, sex workers and other marginalized groups. The evidence is clear: Criminalization is the wrong approach. Ensuring the rights of key populations to non-discrimination in health care and in other aspects of life is the right approach.
Finally, good leadership and governance is key. HIV thrives in situations of poverty and inequity, violence, gender inequality, human rights violations and discrimination. In the context of strong political leadership, the next phase of the global aids response after 2015 needs to be evidence based. This is the only way we can focus scarce resources where they will have the most impact, and eventually enable and a world free of AIDS.
At the high-level meetings in 2001, 2006 and 2011 we have made joint commitments and developed accountability structures to measure the results of our common efforts. We therefore endorse the suggestion of having a high-level meeting in 2016, in order to review the progress as well as to see what measures that needs to be made further on.