XV International AIDS Conference - Access for All
Honourable Ministers, Colleagues, Friends,
I have flown here directly from Darfur, Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of people are living in makeshift camps scattered around an area the size of France. Many don't have enough food, water, or medicines. Their plight is moving. Their needs are urgent. It is a humanitarian emergency. Thousands face death.
This week, in Bangkok, you have been discussing an emergency that takes the lives of thousands of people every single day. But you have also heard voices of hope. And I want to take this opportunity to thank a remarkable group of people. Together they bring hope to millions of people living with HIV/AIDS around the world.
First, on your behalf, I thank UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It was his vision that led to the founding of the Global Fund. He has done so much to keep the world’s attention focussed on the devastating impact of AIDS.
I want to express my admiration and respect for Richard Feacham, Executive Director of the Global Fund. In a remarkably short period of time, he and his staff have turned an idea into reality, mobilizing and disbursing millions of dollars in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
I want to pay tribute to Peter Piot. Under his intelligent and dynamic leadership, UNAIDS continues to lead the world in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
I salute Tommy Thompson, chair of the Global Fund, a true humanitarian, who has travelled so far and wide in the cause of global health.
I also thank Ambassador Randy Tobias. As Global AIDS Coordinator, he brings his considerable energies and talents to address the plight of people living in the countries supported through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
I express my thanks to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who as president of the Global Business Council has done so much to bring HIV/AIDS to the attention of the business community.
The Secretary General’s choice of Stephen Lewis as his special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa was inspired. Stephen, your passion, your eloquence and your anger continue to mobilise and energise us. Thank you for all you do.
I must acknowledge the leadership of Jim Wolfensohn. The World Bank has radically changed during his tenure as President, and led the way in making millions of dollars available for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Africa.
I honour Nelson Mandela. Sir, your dignity in the face of profound adversity continues to inspire millions around the world. Your willingness to speak out on behalf of people who suffer from TB and HIV springs from your personal experience. Your voice brings hope.
I would like to express my profound thanks to Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, and to Aileen Carroll, Minister for International Cooperation. The 100 million Canadian dollars provided to WHO for 3 by 5, and the doubling of Canadian grants to the Global Fund, are tangible demonstrations of your commitment in this area. I also thank the governments of UK and Sweden for their financial support to WHO.
I want to publicly thank President Hu Jintao of China, and President Museveni of Uganda. Your willingness to speak out unequivocally on HIV/AIDS and acknowledge the threat this pandemic poses to your nations provides a model for all heads of state everywhere.
I thank Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Minister of Public Health Sudarat Keyuraphan. Thanks to your leadership, Thailand is not only renowned for its legendary hospitality, but also for the remarkable progress you have made in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
This list would not be complete without mentioning the extraordinary groups of NGOs and activists who strive unceasingly on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS. You are too numerous to mention all by name. But I must thank Joep Lange, President of the International AIDS Society, for his leadership.
These are just some of the world leaders who have demonstrated their unflagging commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
But it is in communities around the world that leadership is also demonstrated. Village leaders who defend the rights of those afflicted by HIV/AIDS. Community volunteers who help to provide prevention, care and treatment in millions of homes. Family elders who in their old age now find themselves caring for extended families and orphans. Rarely will these demonstrations of leadership catch the attention of the world’s media. Few are known by name outside their own communities. But they are so important.
Above all, I salute the community of people living with HIV/AIDS. Some of you are here today. You have my unreserved respect and admiration. It is you we serve.
As commitments and resources increase, the number of players in this arena grows. Each player brings different strengths, different aims and different opinions. And from Sudan I have seen the reports on the conference. I know that voices have been raised, I know that fingers have been pointed.
But it is through our solidarity that we will finally defeat this menace. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, "If we don't hang together, we most assuredly will hang separately." I therefore pledge to work together with you. I will continue to ensure that WHO is with you at the forefront of efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.
History will judge all of us by our response to HIV/AIDS. That response must meet the high ambition and bold commitments of this Conference: Access for All. Let us now go and put it into practice.