Special meeting of the African Union Ministers of Health

Geneva, Switzerland
14 May 2004

Madam Mandela, Minister Tamer, Minister Songane,

It is a great pleasure to see you all together in Geneva, and to welcome you to this meeting. You represent some of the most important countries for the world's health.

All of you have made strong political commitments to fighting diseases and improving the health of your people:

  • controlling HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, measles and onchocerciasis;
  • eradicating polio and guinea-worm disease;
  • preserving the health of women through pregnancy and child birth;
  • protecting the lives and health of children.

Your political support is crucial.

Strengthening national health systems is the key to success for all our programmes and the reason for their existence. This meeting gives us all a good opportunity to look at some of the details of how we are progressing and to coordinate our next steps.

I am encouraged by recent developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The world now has an unprecedented opportunity to reverse the course of this pandemic. More money, more attention and more political will are being devoted to this now than ever before.

Many of you have been involved in the "3 by 5" initiative to get antiretroviral treatment to those who need it most urgently. Your efforts and ours are beginning to bear fruit.

There is still an enormous task of setting up and staffing delivery systems, but the necessary components are coming together rapidly. Last week the Prime Minister of Canada announced that he is contributing 100 million Canadian dollars to "3 by 5" to cover some of the ground work over the next two years. Combined with grants from the Global Fund, other multilateral and bilateral contributions, and your own allocations, this makes it possible to save the lives of millions of people from HIV and AIDS.

Vous allez examiner tous ces développements pendant les deux journées qui viennent, puis à l'Assemblée la semaine prochaine. De la part de l'OMS, je vous souhaite une chaleureuse réussite de ces débats. Qu'ils signalent le début d'une nouvelle force et davantage de vitalité pour vos systèmes de santé!