Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour and privilege to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Armenia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine align themselves with this declaration.
We would like to thank the Secretary-General for the opportunity to review the progress made since the adoption of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS in 2001 and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS at the High Level meeting in 2006. The European Union remains fully committed towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, and achieving the Millennium Development Goals, including the specific targets related to HIV/AIDS. These commitments were reiterated in the European Union Agenda for Action on the Millennium Development Goals, adopted in June 2008, and, most recently, in the Conclusions of the Council of the European Union on ‘Supporting developing countries in coping with the crisis’.
The European Union’s external actions are guided by the European Programme for Action to Confront HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis Through External Action (2007-2011). A midterm review of its progress has recently been conducted in consultation with European and African stakeholders, aiming to better define the response to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Complementary to the Programme for Action, the European Union in cooperation with its partners follows the Commission Communication on ‘Combating HIV/AIDS in Europe and the Neighbouring Countries 2006 – 2009′.
As described in the current report of the Secretary-General, many countries have made significant progress in scaling up towards universal access, including access to antiretroviral therapy and prevention of mother-child transmission. As the target year of 2010 is approaching, it is, however, clear that the HIV/AIDS pandemic remains a major challenge, which calls for sustainable political attention, leadership and long-term response.
The EU fully shares the concern expressed that the commitment to HIV prevention remains inadequate, since the pace of new infections is far larger than the number of people that have access or will be able to have access to treatment. Combination prevention strategies should be scaled up. There is an urgent need to step up the development and implementation of comprehensive prevention approaches, including increased access to male and female condoms as well as information, education and awareness-raising, along with continued investment in research and development of new prevention technologies. As there is not just one type of HIV/AIDS epidemic, efforts should be based on the principle of “knowing your epidemic”, which is a key feature of successful prevention.
It is worrying that basic prevention services and indeed knowledge of the true risks of HIV-infection are not available to far too many, particularly the young. We need to acknowledge that with the current level of effort, our target of universal access to prevention may not be achieved within the timeframe we originally set. Focusing the national and international efforts to all levels of prevention using existing tools is more important than ever.
The European Union also remains gravely concerned with lack of effective prevention programmes, particularly as reflected in the large number of new HIV infections among children and young people, low coverage of prevention of mother-to-child transmission and the lack of pediatric drugs in many countries. We encourage stronger commitment to support and protect 15 million children orphaned and affected by HIV/AIDS and address the social and structural determinants of HIV risk to women. An effective and sustainable solution to fight the feminization of the epidemic is investment in girls and women: in their education and in improving their health and social status, including ensuring and enforcing their sexual and reproductive health.
To reverse the current trend of feminization the European Union, within the context of established EU positions has successfully led efforts to strengthen global attention and action to address gender inequality, gender-based violence and abuse as drivers of the AIDS pandemic, calling for intensified efforts to safeguard women’s and girls’ rights, develop effective HIV and AIDS policy programmes and services for women and girls, including those related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHRs) within the context of established EU positions, and to support the full involvement of women in planning and decision making related to HIV strategies and programmes. We are committed to work collectively and individually to support partner countries in implementing strategies for gender equality, women’s rights and empowerment and approaches which are effective for women and girls in response to the AIDS pandemic. The European Union affirms our strong support for and commitment to the full implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action, as well as the key actions for the further implementation of the ICPD programme of Action agreed at ICPD+5, and the Copenhagen Declaration and Action Programme.
The European Union considers gender equality and the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms as the essential principles in the global response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It is critically important to reduce the vulnerability of women and adolescent girls to HIV. We also need to prevent and combat stigma and related discrimination against people living with HIV, including travel restrictions.
The European Union emphasises that HIV-specific restrictions on entry, stay and residence based on HIV status are discriminatory, and do not protect public health. The European Union therefore urges all countries to eliminate any restrictions on entry, stay and residence based on HIV status. Furthermore, we reaffirm our strong political support to the Task-Team created by the UNAIDS and the Global Fund board on the topic of HIV travel restrictions, which aims to eliminate policies and practices that restrict travel for HIV positive people.
We have to overcome legal, regulatory and cultural or other barriers that inhibit access to effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, including medicines, commodities and services for people living with HIV/AIDS and the populations most at risk, including men who have sex with men, sex workers and injecting drug users. People affected by HIV/AIDS should be fully involved in the design, implementation and monitoring of country strategies to confront the disease.
We call for intensified action to promote safer sexual behaviour, including use of male and female condoms, and to scale up access for injecting drug users to harm reduction interventions, including needle and syringe programmes, opioid substitution therapy and other drug dependence treatment. Programmes to change risky behaviours, complemented with strong human rights protection, are far more effective in controlling HIV. The consequences of the criminalization of HIV transmission should be taken into consideration.
As the world’s largest donor, the European Union has collectively provided a major contribution to the increase of resources for the HIV/AIDS response in recent years, including quadrupling of its support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The European Union will work further with partner countries through results-based budget support modalities such as the Millennium Development Goals Contract, the Global Fund and innovative financing mechanisms. We will also work closely with African governments to fulfillment of their commitments to allocate 15% of state budgets to health, in line with the 2001 Abuja Declaration, through the European Union – Africa Millennium Development Goals Partnership.
In a situation of financial and economic crisis, aid effectiveness and promotion of effective country responses to HIV/AIDS become of even more critical importance. In accordance with the Accra Agenda for Action and the principles of the International Health Partnership and the “Three Ones”, the European Union will support the development and implementation of single national plans and budgets to ensure synergy of international and domestic resources for HIV/AIDS and strengthening of health systems, assist in country-led national plans, including through horizontal technical cooperation.
We applaud the role of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) that helped to reinforce universal access as a top priority. It is our common responsibility at the international, regional and national level to seize this opportunity and act on our words and commitments to support the development of strategies and effective responses to this HIV/AIDS pandemic.
* Croatia and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.