Introductory remarks by Mr. Lov Verma, Secretary, Department of AIDS Control, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, as Chair of Bureau at the 32nd PCB of UNAIDS
Introductory remarks by Mr. Lov Verma, Secretary, Department of AIDS Control, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, as Chair of Bureau at the 32nd PCB of UNAIDS (25-27 June 2013)
Excellency Ministers, Ambassadors, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen
1.It is both a pleasure and privilege for India to Chair the 32nd Meeting of the UNAIDS Programme Co-ordinating Board. At the outset, I welcome each one of you to this meeting which promises to be historic and path-breaking in our worldwide attempts to battle the HIV infection and its consequences. I would also like to welcome my colleague from Australia as the Vice Chair and my colleague from Congo as the Rapporteur. I would like to thank the UNAIDS Secretariat for doing a commendable job in the preparation of the various reports and documents for this meeting. Personally, I would also like to commend the leadership of Mr. Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, who has provided his unstinted guidance, support and vision for the global AIDS control effort.
2. Our agenda for this 32nd PCB meeting includes several important issues which have an impact on the HIV/AIDS programme and the communities affected and infected, not only till the year 2015 but also thereafter. I would like to urge all members that we should move forward in achieving the goals of the Political Declaration of 2011. Let us jointly work towards achieving zero new infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero discrimination on account of HIV.
3. I would like to dwell on just a few key aspects. There is need to continue working closely with vulnerable groups which include known key populations and addressing emerging vulnerable groups like mobile populations and an ever increasing number of young people.
4. We have to continue to work towards elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV. This is not only an issue of epidemiology and transmission dynamics but also one of ethics and morality. Our vision is to assure the right to be born free of HIV to every newborn that enters this world. This is a task of great magnitude for which all of us must join hands.
5. Though there has been progress in increasing access to drugs, this is still an area where a lot more needs to be done. Apart from financial issues, there are IP and other barriers. We must ensure that full use be made of the flexibilities under TRIPS. We call upon nations who have good national legislations and have been able to make use of all the flexibilities under TRIPS to work closely to build capacities of those nations that need hand-holding. Availability of affordable, quality drugs is also to be assured. In this area, India will continue to play a key role globally.
6. A funding gap of approx. US$ 8 billion still exists for this programme. We urge the international community as well as national governments to step forward and provide adequate resources to combat HIV/AIDS. The Government of India is working very closely with all stakeholders and has got strong ownership of the programme. As of now, the national Government has increased its funding to 75% of the entire programme cost.
7. As we refine our response to the AIDS epidemic, we must not lose sight of the fact that different countries have differing epidemiology, vulnerabilities and resources. We must not only advocate interventions for generalized epidemics but also for concentrated epidemics, keeping the country context in mind.
8. I am glad that UNAIDS has not lost sight of the Post 2015 Development Agenda which features as an agenda item in today’s PCB meeting and in such similar meetings to come. It is important that we keep HIV on the world health map and position it for advantage, at times working towards integration with the larger programmes for leveraging larger gains, and at times having separate interventions for greater focus and sensitivity towards vulnerable, affected and infected populations.
9. One of the major strengths of our Programme is that it has not lost sight of the human face. Communities have been kept at the centre of our response. In today’s context, social protection is also an area which is being looked at more closely. The Government of India has activated 27 Ministries who are mandated different aspects of social protection to ensure access of these benefits to these communities. Several other countries have also made commendable progress in this area.
10. Last but not the least, let me draw your attention to the third major goal of zero discrimination on account of HIV. Let us introspect: how far have we succeeded in this endeavor? To take a simple but relling example, the number of countries, territories or areas that had HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence fell from 47 to 44 between December 2011 and January 2013. Surely, the pace of progress on this front could have been faster. I call upon all participants in this meeting and all stakeholders to utilize this historic opportunity to not only renew but upgrade and upscale our response to the HIV infection to ensure to everyone a life of dignity, health and well-being.