September 4, 2000
-- AIDS is one of the key issues shaping the world today and should rank as high on the list of human concerns as globalization, peace and the environment, said Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
"AIDS is no longer simply a public health issue: it cuts across agencies, disciplines, and national boundaries," Dr. Piot said. "There is no part of society in the hardest hit areas that is not in some way touched by the epidemic. We are talking not only about health, but about education, agriculture, the economy. AIDS threatens to roll back decades of hard-won development. Indeed, it has become a full-fledged development crisis."
Dr. Piot was speaking at a symposium in London entitled We The Peoples: The U.N. In the 21st Century, which he attended on his way to the U.N. Millennium Summit being held on 6-8 September in New York. The symposium, organized by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, provides a venue for debate on the role of the U.N. at the start of a new century.
During the symposium, Dr. Piot addressed the concerns expressed in We The Peoples, the report prepared by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the Millennium Summit on the U.N.'s role in the new century.
"Reform is a two-way process," Dr. Piot said. "The United Nations cannot reform without change in the member states." In his speech to the pre-summit symposium, Dr. Piot highlighted the "deadly inequalities" of health that continue to divide the world, pointing to the growing AIDS epidemic in developing countries and calling for political will and commitment from governments.
UNAIDS is one example of the kind of collaborative arrangement needed in today's international environment, Dr. Piot said, and called for continued and broadened partnerships in the response to AIDS. Since it was launched in 1996, UNAIDS has worked closely with a number of groups representing religious communities, civil society and community organizations, the business sector, governments, academia and the broad public.
The need for a collaborative approach to cross-sectoral issues is evidenced by the continuing spread of AIDS. Already, 18.8 million people around the world have died of AIDS, 3.8 million of them children. Nearly twice that many -- 34.3 million -- are now living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In 1999 alone, 5.4 million people were newly infected with HIV.
According to We The Peoples, AIDS is "rapidly becoming a social crisis on a global scale." The Secretary-General, building on the agreement reached by the U.N. General Assembly, calls for a strategy that focuses on young people aged 15 to 24 and on providing care to those living with HIV. He explicitly recommends action to reduce HIV infection rates among young people by 25% in the most affected countries before 2005, and globally by 2010. He also challenges countries to set specific prevention targets: "By 2005 at least 90% and by 2010 at least 95% of young men and women must have access to the information, education and services they need to protect themselves against HIV infection."