Introductory remarks by Shri Lov Verma,...
Introductory remarks by Shri Lov Verma, Secretary (NACO) as Chair of Bureau at the meeting of the PCB of UNAIDS on 1 March 2013
It is a privilege for India to Chair the PCB, which, though relatively small, but which has proven to be an effective Board. As Roosevelt said that “great mind discuss ideas, average mind discuss events and small minds discuss people”. Further Mead also added, “a small group of thoughtful people could change the world…”. The Board is unique in the UN with its representation of the UN cosponsoring organizations and civil society on it.
After having served as Vice Chair in 2012, it is a privilege to welcome an almost entirely new PCB Bureau. I would like to welcome and congratulate, personally, Australia as the Vice-chair. Australia’s leadership in the AIDS response is commendable. We are looking forward to work with Shireen Sandhu who is with us today and with Tim Polletti in the Bureau. We hope that we will have a fruitful discussion when Melbourne will be hosting the 2014 International AIDS Conference.
I would like to welcome Republic of Congo on the Bureau as rapporteur. I personally believe that it is important to have the Africa Group represented at the Bureau and Fernande (Mvila) has already over the past years been a very active and engaged member of the PCB but also at the UNAIDS missions briefings.
I am very pleased to welcome Jan Brunning, the National Coordinator of Positive Women Incorporated representing APN+ and the NGO delegation on the Bureau. Jane is joining us by phone from New Zealand, and I wanted to apologize for the somewhat unfriendly hour but with 12 hours time difference, it is not easy to find a god timing.
A welcome to UNESCO as representative of the cosponsors. I understand that we have Ms. Soo (Hyang Choi, the Global Coordinator) and Chris Castle on the phone from Paris. I also look forward to meeting the UNESCO Director General, Ms Bokova at the June PCB.
I would like to thank the UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Ms Jan Beagle for the Secretariat’s preparations of this first Bureau meeting and the briefings and material provided to us.
Before starting with the agenda before us, I would like to mention about the priorities for India in our national response. In the last 5 year cycle of the National AIDS Control Programme, which ended on 31st March 2012, the fund share of Government of India was approximately 15%. In the next 5 years cycle, this share has gone up to 85% of the total funding portfolio. In absolute terms, Government of India funding will be approximately US$ 2 billion, which envisages a 9-fold increase in domestic funding.
India remains a low prevalence country with a prevalence now reduced to 0.27% adult prevalence, new infections reduced by more than half in the last decade, there being a decline of 57% in incidence.
India stands by its commitment to supply low cost generic medicines to all countries in the world that need them. India has contributed enormously tot the AIDS response through its capacity to manufacture generic antiretroviral drugs in the private sector. 80% of these generics drugs are being purchased from India. A key strength of India’s HIV programme is the partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, including positive networks, CSOs, community organizations, research institutions and academia, and international partners. The programme has followed a consultative and collaborative approach in policy formulation and implementation.
During the BRICS Health Ministers’ conference in Delhi in January 2013, the Health Ministers called for renewed efforts to face the continued challenge posed by HIV. The Health Ministers committed to focus on cooperation in combating HIV/AIDS through approaches such as innovative ways to reach out with prevention services, efficacious drugs and diagnostics, exchange of information on newer treatment regimens, determination of recent infections and HIV-TB co-infections. The Ministers also agreed to share experience and expertise in the areas of surveillance, existing and new strategies to prevent the spread of HIV, and in rapid scale up of affordable treatment. They reiterated their commitment to ensure that bilateral and regional trade agreements do not undermine TRIPS flexibilities so as to assure availability of affordable generic ARV drugs to developing countries.
During the thematic session in the last PCB meeting in December 2012, with regard to combination prevention, India had urged that the country context is extremely important , particularly the aspect of PreP and treatment as prevention, which is being looked at only through the lens of generalized epidemics. Transmission dynamics are different in countries with concentrated epidemics. This has to be kept in mind to avoid a ‘one size fit all’ approach. India has pointed out the case of HPTN 052 trials which showed different responses in the India setting to those of other countries, clearly highlighting the need for country specific strategies.
Treatment as prevention is a huge challenge and throws up ethical issues like providing ART to persons who are not infected with HIV, specially at a time when we are not able to provide access to all those who are HIV positive. We also need to understand that treatment as prevention may also lead to decrease in condom usage as people will tend to over rely on ARV. It also does not protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections.