When we explore the causes of Africa’s under-economic development, it is common to mention slave trade, colonialism, difficulty in accessing sea trade or inefficient institutions. However, experts in health and economics increasingly agree that it is infectious diseases that play the largest role in Africa’s underdevelopment.
Let me say from the outset of my opening remarks that if our hope is to put AIDS into the history books—we must take bolder action. Most important is preventing new infections. As long as there are five people newly infected for every two people starting HIV treatment—we will not change the trajectory of the epidemic.
It troubles me greatly to say that caring societies are in recession. We are bombarded with news and reports of increasingly terrible acts perpetuated on women. In South Africa according the Medical Research Council of Cape Town University, one in four women report being abused by an intimate partner – and every six hours a woman is killed. In the UK according to the British Crime Survey, a reported 80,000 women suffer rape every year2. Research from a number of countries confirms what seems common sense: there is a strong relationship between intimate partner violence and HIV status.
I am deeply honored and privileged to join you for this important meeting for three reasons: First, we are witnessing a revolution in practice—a revolution which brings altogether users and ex-users, human rights advocates, public health practitioners and of course those who have the financial resources to make a difference—to address a pressing problem for which there are straight-forward evidence-informed solutions.
As everybody knows this is my last PCB meeting. It’s therefore with mixed feelings that I am addressing you. Rather than give you my usual report on the work of UNAIDS since the last since the last PCB meeting, I’d like to share some reflections on the past and future of UNAIDS and the aids response. I’m afraid I will be a bit longer than usual.
I arrived here yesterday from South Africa, where I saw very positive signs of strong new leadership on AIDS. The National AIDS Council has a clear agenda, and it is good to see government and civil society really rallying together to achieve this.
My friends - it is an honour and a pleasure to be with you here in Durban on World AIDS Day. We are here because we have reasons to celebrate and causes for concern. Last time I spoke in this stadium was in 2000, at the 13th International AIDS Conference. I will never forget seeing small, frail Nkosi Johnson standing on this stage, nor the bold words he spoke.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, for the opportunity to join you today during this vital discussion. First, let me congratulate Gareth Thomas and DFID for assembling such a formidable range of actors to address new prevention technologies. I note that we see today both the leading technical experts as well as politicians: every innovator knows that the best brains in the world are not enough – we need the resources, communication and politics to put new ideas into practice.