Helen Clark: Message for World AIDS Day

Dec 1, 2010

Message from Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, on the occasion of World AIDS Day

‘Universal access and human rights’ is the theme of this year’s World AIDS day, reminding us of the critical importance of both in effective responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Timely access to HIV-related treatment demonstrably extends lives. In Southern Africa, for example, anti-retroviral treatment expanded more than tenfold between 2002 and 2009, from 300,000 people to 3.7 million. According to the 2010 Human Development Report, the availability of this treatment  played a crucial role in forestalling the even more dramatic drops in life expectancy in that region which would otherwise have occurred.   In total, five million people around the world are on life-saving anti-retroviral treatment today. Yet ten million more who are eligible for treatment still lack access.

Ensuring a breakthrough on universal access will require work on multiple fronts, not least in the area of human rights. That will require some of the most complex legal and human rights challenges confronting the HIV response today to be addressed, including the inappropriate criminalization of marginalized populations, violence and discrimination against women and children, and the barriers which stand in the way of accessing treatment.  The Global Commission on HIV and the Law, set up by UNDP this year, aims to address these tough issues.

UNDP has been working in innovative ways to support people to advocate for and access the services they need, for example, with HIV-positive women’s groups in six regions.  Then, in Belarus, through our partnership with the Global Fund to Fight Against AIDS, TB, and Malaria, UNDP has worked with nearly 100 organizations on an HIV programme focusing on sex workers, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, and prisoners. This led to the creation of a nationwide network of HIV educational centres for young people. Support for those working at the grassroots level is crucial. On 1 December, UNDP will honour the winners of the Red Ribbon Award – they are 25 community-based organizations working on the frontline in support of communities affected by HIV.

As we mark another World AIDS Day, let us also reaffirm our commitment to services which are universally accessible and based on a human rights approach.

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