(Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
World leaders must do everything in their power to end the AIDS pandemic by 2020, the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said at the U.N. Summit on AIDS in New York.
“Today, we gather to end AIDS,” Ban said as the United Nations General Assembly opened on Wednesday.
The three-day summit is being held as the world marks the 30th anniversary since HIV was first discovered. Ban told delegates gathered from across the world that AIDS must end: “That is our goal - zero new infections, zero stigma and zero AIDS-related deaths.”
Ban urged: “If we are to relegate AIDS to the history books we must be bold. That means facing sensitive issues, including men who have sex with men, drug users and the sex trade.”
Pointing towards the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, the U.N. chief called on the world community to unite in “global solidarity as never before” so that there would be universal access to AIDS treatments by 2015.
However, in response to Ban’s comments, many African leaders explained that greater resources were essential if the disease was to be eradicated.
President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan, whose country has the second-most number of HIV-positive people after South Africa, said: “To say that adequate funding is critical to the success of our HIV and AIDS response is an understatement.”
Ban spoke of the encouraging figures that new infections of the disease had decreased by 20% since the Millennium Development Goals were set up in 2001. However, with just under 10m people still not able to access retroviral treatment to protect them from HIV/AIDS, there is still much work to be done.
The U.N. estimates that up to 34m people have the AIDS virus, but as many as half of them are ignorant of the fact that they have the disease.
The U.N. meeting is reportedly being attended by 30 presidents and heads of government.