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Annette King at UN session on HIV/AIDS in New York

27 June 2001 Media Statement

Honesty essential to prevent spread of HIV/AIDS, says Annette King at UN special session in New York

EMBARGO 2.45AM WEDNESDAY 27 JUNE

Health Minister Annette King has told the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS that countries must listen to the voices of women to prevent the spread of the disease.

Mrs King called (Wednesday, 2.45am NZ time) for political honesty about which community groups were most at risk. "The virus does not care about religion. It does not care about the colour of a person's skin. It does not care about ideology or political sensibilities. It does not care in the least about politicians.

"But politicians must care about HIV and AIDS. Our fundamental responsibility is to provide leadership. That means we must always keep up with the changing face of this virus."

Mrs King said governments must trust and empower vulnerable groups in the community to be part of the solution. "Hiding behind traditional taboos about prostitution, sex before marriage, the use of condoms, homosexuality and injecting drug users will doom millions of people."

Heterosexual transmission was now the major world challenge "It is therefore essential that women's voices are listened to. Women often bear the brunt of the epidemic. In many cases they become infected due to a lack of access to or acceptance of contraception, or lack of power to say yes or no. The protection and promotion of women's human rights is crucial to combating the epidemic."

Adolescents were also vulnerable, she said. "They must be equipped with honest information about how they can lower the risk of the virus."

Mrs King said the security and affordability of drug supply was also a major issue. "New Zealand supports the right of developing countries to utilise all available avenues, within international law, to obtain affordable essential drugs for treatment of HIV and other diseases. The United Nations must keep a focus on small nations, particularly those in the Pacific. Growing risk of an uncontrolled epidemic among Pacific peoples needs our attention at the highest level."

ENDS

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