STATEMENT AT PRESS EVENT
Genoa, 20 July, 2001
Mr. Prime Minister,
Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you, Prime Minister, for that extraordinary expression of support for the global fight against HIV-AIDS. The commitment and resources of the G-8 countries are indispensable if we are to win this battle. By joining it as vigorously and comprehensively as you have today, you - all of you - have given new meaning to leadership and solidarity in the 21st century, and I salute you for it. In this effort, there is no us and them, no developed and developing countries, no rich and poor -- only a common enemy that knows no frontiers and threatens all peoples.
Our meeting today is the culmination of a year-long process of awareness, engagement and mobilization on the issue of HIV-AIDS. For the first time, we are seeing the emergence of a response to this deadly disease that begins to match the scale of the epidemic itself. Governments, multilateral organizations, the private sector and civil society are all engaged in an unprecedented effort to defeat an epidemic that to date has infected an estimated 36 million people and claimed 22 million lives. At the Abuja Summit in April, African leaders made clear their commitment to the fight against AIDS. And at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session in June, the world came together to set common targets for reducing the spread of AIDS and alleviating its impact.
Our priorities should be clear: First, to ensure that people everywhere - particularly the young - know what to do to avoid infection. Second, to stop perhaps the most tragic form of HIV transmission - from mother to child. Third, to provide treatment for all those infected. Fourth, to redouble the search for a vaccine, as well as a cure. Fifth, to care for all whose lives have been devastated by AIDS, particularly the orphans - and there are 13 million of them today - and their numbers are growing.
The battle against AIDS will not be won without the necessary resources. We need to mobilize an additional seven to ten billion dollars a year to fight this disease world-wide. Part of these funds will be found in increased domestic budgets in countries in every part of the world. In Africa, leaders are rising to the challenge, and African Governments have pledged to increase their health budgets significantly. This is laudable, but it is not enough.
African and other developing countries will need substantial assistance to meet the needs of their peoples. That is why the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the establishment of a Global AIDS and Health Fund, which all sides now agree must become operational by the end of this year. The Fund has already received more than $1 billion in contributions - from Governments, foundations, businesses and private citizens. This is a very good beginning. But much, much more is needed. I therefore call on Governments, civil society, foundations and individuals to contribute to the fight against AIDS in any way they can.
Mr. Prime Minister,
I see the contributions by your Governments as evidence of your determination to follow through on the Millennium Declaration issued at the United Nations last year. Let me recall today three of its most pressing commitments: your pledges to "have halted and, begun to reverse, the spread of HIV/AIDS" by 2015; to halve, by the same date, the proportion of the world's people living in extreme poverty; and to spare no effort to free humanity "from the threat of living on a planet irredeemably spoilt by human activities."
The magnitude and the urgency of the AIDS epidemic has created an extraordinary global response to one of these challenges, based on partnership, solidarity and enlightened leadership. We must all remember that while HIV/AIDS affects both rich and poor, the poor are much more vulnerable to infection, and much less able to cope with the disease once infected. Your leadership and commitment today will serve to give new strength and inspiration to the thousands of health-care workers, teachers and community leaders fighting this disease in the poorest parts of the world, and the millions suffering from its effects. They will know that the world is finally summoning the will -- and committing the resources -- to win this war for all humanity.