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NZ Govt stmt to UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of the Crown

12 May 2008 Media Statement

NZGovt stmt to UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS


The following is the text of the New Zealand Government's statement, delivered by Cabinet Minister Hon Trevor Mallard, to the United Nations General Assembly: High-level meeting on a comprehensive review of the progress achieved in realising the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS

"Mr President

Let me first thank the Secretary-General for his report and acknowledge the work of the co-facilitators and UNAIDS for organising this 2008 review. We also want to acknowledge the extraordinary leadership of Dr Peter Piot and thank him for his commitment to our Pacific region.

New Zealand is highly committed to achieving universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support for people affected by HIV and AIDS by 2010. However, we must all understand what needs to be done. We, therefore, strongly support UNAIDS focus of 'knowing your epidemic: making it count'. To build on the work done to date we have to be brave enough to seek out the correct evidence and to know the truth about our epidemics.

We need to have the right information to know the epidemic. Our data collection cannot reflect reality when people are afraid to tell the truth:

- if, for example, a young sexually active woman or man says they are not sexually active out of fear that their parents and community will punish and condemn them;
- if, for example, a drug user cannot get access to clean needles out of fear of being discriminated and imprisoned;
- if, for example, a man who has sex with another man says he got HIV from a woman out of fear of public condemnation;
- if, for example, a positive sex worker is forced to lie about her HIV status because she knows that there is no other way to feed her children;
- and if, for example, a wife cannot get the sexual and reproductive health services she needs because her husband does not support her wish to use condoms.

We have witnessed the ‘feminisation’ of HIV/AIDS. We recognise the vulnerability and inequality for so many women in all societies. Violence against women and negative and harmful practices that subordinate women are fuelling the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Human rights approaches are essential. We in the global community must eliminate stigma and discrimination from the lives of all people affected by and infected with HIV.

We must integrate HIV and sexual and reproductive health programmes. Bringing HIV-related programmes into the mainstream of health systems and through multi-sectorial approaches will deliver cost-effective outcomes.

HIV/AIDS is a major obstacle to development and is a constraint to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It cuts across all sectors and the response to HIV and AIDS is linked to the reduction in child and maternal mortality and gender equality.

We believe that better coordination at country level promotes stronger country ownership and leadership.

An example of our approach can be seen in our support to countries in the Pacific region to implement the Pacific Regional Strategy on HIV/AIDS. This includes working with all partners to strengthen the health systems and to build workforce capacity to sustain the progress made so far.

New Zealand is one of the world leaders in evidenced-based prevention. We have one of the lowest rates of HIV prevalence.

We have achieved this by putting human rights at the centre of our response: decriminalising men who have sex with men and making discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and HIV status illegal; decriminalising prostitution and establishing needle exchange programmes. This could only happen through true partnerships between civil society, most particularly people living with HIV, and the New Zealand government.

To make every person count we must ensure that we count every person. The only way to do this is to eliminate stigma and discrimination. Let us act together in solidarity to ensure that when we meet again in 2011, we have met the 2010 target of universal access to prevention, care, treatment and support. That way we can count our success and know that it is true. "

ENDS

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