Secretary-General, in World Observance, Reaffirms Vision of Zero New HIV Infections, Discrimination, AIDS-related Deaths by 2030

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the World AIDS Day event, in New York today:

Thank you, [Michel] Sidibé, for your very kind words and for recognizing my small contribution.  Whatever we might have been able to achieve, it was done with all our concerted efforts and commitment.

I am honoured to take this very meaningful gift as a token of our common solidarity, reigniting and solidifying our strong engagement and commitment to eliminate HIV on this earth.  We have been making this our commitment that by 2030, that there will be no new cases of HIV/AIDS, no deaths caused by HIV/AIDS and also no discrimination against people living with HIV.

Again, I would like to thank you for this recognition on this very meaningful day for me.  I would also like to thank Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly, and Lorena Castillo de Varela, the First Lady of Panama.  Thank you very much for your commitment.  We are very much indebted and grateful to President Juan Carlos Varela [Rodríguez] for his strong commitment.  We are also very much impressed by the social, economic and political stability and development of Panama.

And I would like to thank special envoys and many other civil society leaders who have been working together with the United Nations for our common views, and I would like to commend the leadership of Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS].

What a remarkable gathering today.  I am honoured to be here again.  Madame First Lady, thank you again for lending your prestige to this cause.

Eric Sawyer, you helped found this movement.  Today’s generation owes you and your peers a debt of gratitude for speaking truth to power.  Thank you very much.

Kenneth Cole, your footwear is famous – and when it comes to activism, I hope many people walk in your shoes!  Thank you very much.

Naomi Campbell, you are a supermodel — and a model of raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.  I thank you for your strong commitment.

Rebecca Awiti — we met a few years ago — I am proud that we stood side by side to launch my AIDS report in Kenya in March 2011.  Back then, your triplets were barely up to my chest.  One of your sons is here; he has grown up.  They have grown so beautifully.  Thank you for your strong courage.

Last month, I was also honoured by the Elton John AIDS Foundation for my work for the equality of all people – no matter who they are or who they love.  I am proud to be an LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual] activist.  I accepted on behalf of all my colleagues working for justice around the world.  That evening, I met Kathie Heirs, who is addressing AIDS in very poor communities in the south in the United States.  She said in the early years of the AIDS epidemic, she lost so many friends, she had to throw away her address book.  Now, she says, her work to end AIDS is not a job — it is a calling.

All of you here understand this feeling.  For me, it is not even that I am Secretary-General.  I have been criticised by many, many people around the world, including in my own home country.  But I believe in human dignity and human rights.  Everybody [should have] equal opportunities and equal human rights and dignity.

We are motivated to fight AIDS because we know that every child deserves care, every person deserves treatment, and all vulnerable groups deserve protection from stigma and abuse.  We know that hatred and bigotry spread disease and – as the founders of this movement taught — silence equals death.  Tolerance and awareness help stop AIDS.  Speaking out protects life.

I was moved by the short video we just saw.  It reminded me of many wonderful people I have met on my journey as United Nations Secretary-General.  Together, we have worked for a world where more people than ever are on treatment.  Half as many children are infected through mother-to-child transmission.  And double the number of people has access to medicines.  I am calling for action to get on the fast track to our target of 30 million people on treatment by 2030.

This requires that we reach the most vulnerable communities – the young women in Sub-Saharan Africa… people who inject drugs… gay men and other men who have sex with men… and the poor who need services and care.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises to leave no one behind.  Today we reaffirm our vision:  No new HIV infections.  No discrimination.  And no AIDS-related deaths.

This is my last chance to mark World AIDS Day as Secretary-General, as I am going to retire by the end of next month – but I will continue to stand with all of you until we achieve an AIDS-free world.  Let’s work together to make this world healthier and more prosperous where everybody’s human dignity will be rightly protected and respected.  I thank you for your commitment and leadership.

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