World AIDS Day

Address to staff

Geneva, Switzerland
1 December 2004

The theme of this World AIDS Day reminds us that we need not only to expand services but to ensure equity
Dr Jong-wook Lee addressing staff on the World AIDS day event in WHO Headquarters

Today we remember the more than 20 million people who have died of AIDS, and we renew our commitment to fighting this pandemic. Preventing further infections and making treatment available to those who will otherwise die is one of the greatest challenges the world is facing. It is particularly our challenge as people who work in the World Health Organization.

The "3 by 5" strategy was designed to give everybody ways to take up this challenge. We launched it one year ago and the response has been tremendous - from staff, from countries and from our partners at every level .

As a result, the numbers of people on treatment have multiplied in several countries. Antiretrovirals have become more affordable, more available and simpler to use. Professionals to support treatment and strengthen health systems have been added in 34 countries. Large amounts of money have been made available, both directly for the "3 by 5" initiative and, indirectly, through other funds.

This progress reflects an enormous effort by many members of our staff, across the Organization. It involves people in essential drugs, health systems, family and community health, health information, ethics, chronic care and many other areas. By responding to the same demand and joining the same single struggle, we are learning to combine our strengths and make better use of one another's expertise. One of the very promising by-products of these activities is better quality drugs through the prequalification programme.

The fight against this one disease has engaged us in building national health services that are needed for every aspect of health care. It is helping us to transform our own ways of working to meet the health needs of the twenty-first century.

The theme of this World AIDS Day reminds us that we need not only to expand services but to ensure equity. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable, both to infection and to the suffering it causes. We have to shape our activities to meet their needs if this initiative is to succeed.

We still have a very long way to go to reach the three million people most in need. In the coming months, we will continue to face new demands, difficulties and challenges. But these efforts will also continue to save lives and reduce the suffering of others - even if they increase our own a little from time to time.

I am also pleased to announce an important breakthrough for the safety and care of our own staff. Our Staff Health Insurance now covers HIV infection, for all staff members, including those on temporary contracts.

Thank you for much hard work and many achievements during the last 12 months. Thank you in advance for those of the coming year.