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Statement delivered by H.E. Mr. Martin Bille Hermann, State Secretary for Development Policy, in the plenary of the High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS.

10.06.2016  17:09

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©UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

 

(Check Against Delivery)

Mr./Ms. President, Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,

Denmark wishes to thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this high level meeting on HIV/AIDS at a crucial point in time. We also want to acknowledge and commend the work of the two co-facilitators, Ambassador Mwaba Kasese-Bota of Zambia and Ambassador Jürg Lauber of Switzerland, in getting agreement on a forward looking and strong Political Declaration.

The global AIDS response is at a pivotal point. The end of the epidemic - which has cost so many lives and caused so much suffering - is within sight and reach. This is great news! However the end of the epidemic will not come automatically. It requires adopting a Fast Track approach. Without this, we run the risk of reversal; of losing years’ of investment and efforts. It is a battle we cannot afford to lose.

The HIV/AIDS response has made tremendous progress and can report many positive results, particularly in the area of treatment. But while lifesaving treatment is essential, we cannot treat ourselves out of the HIV epidemic. And sadly, prevention efforts are not faring as well as treatment is. Global HIV incidence is stagnating; not declining as desired. Treatment therefore must go hand in hand with a broad range of prevention interventions if we are to succeed ending AIDS.

We continue to witness a rise in infections among certain, particularly exposed and vulnerable population groups, predominantly due to discrimination and gender inequality. The UNAIDS GAP report points us to where we need to focus attention. Closing the gaps identified in the report involves meeting the right of everyone to be able to access information, services and treatment without fear of stigma, discrimination and punishment. It is about leaving no one behind. And it is about strengthening community based approaches.

Promoting and protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all individuals - regardless of age, gender, occupation, sexual orientation and gender identity - is imperative. We must address and tackle issues like gender based violence, including rape as well as child early and forced marriage. We must meet the huge unmet demand for information and services, including contraception. And we must ensure that especially key populations including sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners and injecting drug users are able to access services in a people-centered, inclusive, non-stigmatizing and non-discriminatory manner. Shying away from these issues will not make them go away – on the contrary.  Leaving no one behind will be crucial to reaching the ambitious SDG target. Stigma and discrimination have no place in the twenty-first century. We must not let yesterday’s taboos stand in the way of tomorrow’s results.

The world today faces the largest generation of young people ever. We know how HIV disproportionally affects adolescent girls and young women. In sub-Saharan Africa young women account for one in four new HIV infections and AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescent girls. We need to fight the root causes of this. Young people have the right to be equipped with the knowledge and means to protect themselves from HIV infection. Access to comprehensive sexuality education for youth and adolescents - in and out of school - as well as to youth friendly services is essential in this regard. This will enable them to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive lives and thus shape their futures in terms of education, employment and family.

We know what to do – what is required is action. In this regard, we welcome the new UNAIDS strategy which places strong emphasis on meeting the human rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized population groups and has an overarching goal of eliminating  HIV-related discrimination.

Denmark remains committed to working with all partners, including civil society – which has played a crucial role in the fight against HIV and AIDS – to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all in the efforts to end AIDS by 2030. The world must put the needed efforts into finishing and winning this battle, which we began more than 15 years ago. This is not the time to hesitate. This is not the time to waiver. It is time to finish the job.

Thank you.