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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Declaration on behalf of the EU at the Commission for population and development regarding world population monitoring, focusing on population, development and HIV/AIDS, with particular emphasis on poverty

Date of Speech : 04-04-2005

Place : New York

Speaker : Elisabeth Colotte

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Mr. Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union, the candidate countries Romania and Turkey, the countries of the association and stabilization process and potential candidates Albania, Croatia*, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia-and-Montenegro, as well as EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, align themselves to this statement.

Mr. Chairman, let me congratulate you and the other members of the Bureau on your election. We look forward to cooperating with you in a common effort to ensure that our meeting is a success.

I would also like to thank the Secretary General and the Secretariat for the preparatory work for this session of the CPD We look forward to discussing the Secretary General's reports for item three on our agenda on the basis of the theme of 2005, “Population, development and HIV/AIDS, with particular emphasis on poverty�?.

At the outset, I would like to reaffirm the EU’s full and broad support for the entire agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), and the key actions adopted at ICPD as well as the need to achieve its mutually supportive goals. We also fully acknowledge our responsibility to bear an appropriate share of the financial burden identified in the ICPD Program of Action.

Mr. Chairman,

The EU would like to welcome the fact that this Commission decided to tackle the subject of HIV/AIDS and its links to sexual and reproductive health and rights and to poverty. We recognize the exceptional dimension of the fight against HIV/AIDS and the necessity of an exceptional response. An enhanced response to the pandemic should be led under the overarching framework of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and will need to draw on the achievements of the goals and targets of Cairo. We need to explicitly recognize, and stress the linkages between, sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV/AIDS at the upcoming General Assembly annual review on progress in meeting the UNGASS targets in June, as well as during the High-level plenary meeting of the 60th session of the General Assembly as follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit in September.

It is encouraging that nearly all countries now have national HIV/AIDS policies, mostly addressing HIV/AIDS as a development threat that requires a broad multi-sectoral response. However, the reports by the Secretary General suggest that, in spite of increased political commitment, heightened HIV awareness and additional financial resources, the epidemic continues to spread, and too many people continue to suffer from the disease, and die each day. There is a need to enhance the inclusion of responses to HIV/AIDS into the National Poverty Strategies, knowing that the impact of HIV/AIDS deepens poverty and income inequalities and poverty exacerbate HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Chairman,

The advance of HIV/AIDS, especially in the LDCs and in Sub Saharan Africa, is of acute concern to the EU. By placing heavy economic, health and social burdens on families and households, which especially affect women, and by eroding intergenerational support systems, AIDS increases poverty. In addition, it is straining the resources of the health and education sectors in poorer countries, inducing the next generations to be even less healthy and less educated than the previous ones.

We emphasize that the fight against HIV/AIDS cannot succeed without universal access to quality reproductive health services. The EU would like to underline the urgent need for the international community to link the fight against HIV/AIDS with support for reproductive and sexual health and rights. Critically, we need to maintain strong political commitment and funding for sexual and reproductive health information, services and research, to extend treatment and care, and to ensure reproductive choices to people affected by HIV, in accordance with the ICPD Programme of Action. Groups that are especially vulnerable such as the young, men who have unsafe sex with men, intravenous drug users and persons in prostitution, deserve special attention. All HIV/AIDS responses should be comprehensive and integrated, including prevention and access to treatment and care, where best appropriate. Prevention, treatment and care for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS are mutually reinforcing elements of an effective response and must be integrated in a comprehensive approach to combat the epidemic.

Far greater resources are required both to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and to fight HIV and AIDS. Both governments and donors, must meet their commitments to fund these services. We cannot talk about HIV prevention without also talking about sexual and reproductive health - an expanded response to AIDS also means an expanded response to sexual and reproductive health. Further international assistance for AIDS and sexual and reproductive health must be harmonised and aligned behind a coherent, national multi-sectoral response, coordinated by national authorities and based on a single national strategy, to address AIDS in an integrated way, including prevention, treatment, care and research. This approach has been strongly promoted under the Three Ones, which the European Union supports. The European Union would like to extend its congratulations to UNAIDS for leading the UN response, and to the ten UNAIDS cosponsors for their roles. We would also like to encourage these agencies to ensure that their different responses are coherent and harmonised globally.

International assistance can only be effective if it forms part of a cohesive national multi-sectoral response that is part of a national strategy, based on national ownership and addressing AIDS in an integrated way, including prevention, treatment, care and research. In addition there is a need to strengthen national competence to analyze the impact of the epidemic for use in all dimensions of responses. To make it work, it is key for governments to continue working with all partners, namely international agencies, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, organizations of people living with HIV and AIDS, young people, women’s groups, the private sector, and the media.

Mr Chairman,

The EU wishes to highlight the gravity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. UNAIDS' State of the World Epidemic estimates at five million the number of new infections each year, with Africa being hardest hit by the epidemic. With the largest generation ever now entering sexual and reproductive life, scaling up prevention activities and extending the technologies available to us must continue to be central to action against HIV/AIDS. Access by young adults to sexual and reproductive health information, education, services and commodities, including condoms, is essential in achieving the goals set in Cairo 10 years ago, as well as the fight against HIV/AIDS. Age-specific and gender sensitive sexual and reproductive health, as well as HIV/AIDS education and services are needed to meet the specific needs of youth.

Half of all adults living with HIV/AIDS are female, and in sub-Saharan Africa, the most affected region, the figure is nearly 60%. Young women aged 15-24 are two and a half times more likely to be infected than young men. The high rates of infection among women and adolescent girls reflect their greater vulnerability, due to both biological and social factors. Socially and economically disadvantaged women are more likely than men to be infected with HIV. Women's sexual and reproductive health and rights continue to merit focused attention, particularly related to gender equality and gender based violence. Women's reproductive rights are fundamental to efforts to combat the spread of AIDS. Women's empowerment includes the ability of women to control their own sexual and reproductive lives. We are unlikely to make the progress on HIV prevention without the rights of women being recognised and respected. Much greater attention should be paid to the responsibility of boys and men for changing behaviour and reducing gender inequality. A greater focus on the role of men and boys in improving sexual and reproductive health and rights, in combating HIV/AIDS will benefit all individuals and society as a whole. These issues need to be addressed with a strong support from leaders at all levels.

At Cairo it was agreed that Governments should ensure that prevention of and services for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS are an integral component of reproductive and sexual health programmes at the primary health-care level. Therefore linking HIV/AIDS and reproductive health services is crucial, as more than three fourths of HIV cases are transmitted sexually and an additional 10% transmission from mothers to child during delivery or breastfeeding. Reproductive health care and antenatal services which are well attended by women are therefore key entry points for maximizing the impact of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts and ensure full enjoyment of human rights.

The prevention of new HIV infections, through the promotion of safer and responsible sexual behaviour and practices, including through condom use, must be the mainstay of the sub-national, national, regional and international response to the epidemic.

Awareness of behaviours that increase the risk of contracting HIV and resultant behavioural change is the key to prevention. However, in many countries, increased awareness has not yet translated into significant changes in behaviour. Strategies must ensure that HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health programmes contribute to the overall strengthening and sustainability of health systems. Governments have to strengthen efforts to address these issues in policies, and ensure a heightened and sustained political commitment to addressing HIV/AIDS. Policies and programmes should recognize and support the fuller integration of HIV prevention efforts into reproductive health services, and the integration of reproductive health services into HIV-related programmes.

There is a need to improve access to information, sexuality education and services for all, but especially for young people, and particularly adolescent girls who are particularly vulnerable. The incidence of HIV/AIDS and other STIs, unintended pregnancies and abortion decrease when young people are provided with quality information, sexuality education, family planning, confidential counselling and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Also young men and boys should be involved. Governments must intensify efforts and ensure that young people around the world have access to age-specific and gender sensitive sexual and reproductive health and to HIV/AIDS education and services which are affordable, available, appropriate and accessible. Programs should make special efforts to also reach marginalized groups like refugees, migrants, prisoners, men who have sex with men, sex workers injecting drug users etc. Reflecting the links between HIV/AIDS related stigma, discrimination and human rights violations, comprehensive interventions are needed. Action must be taken both to prevent stigma and to challenge discrimination when it occurs, as well as to monitor and to redress human rights violations.

Scaling up HIV testing and counselling services provides a crucial entry point for both HIV prevention and treatment. In this context, the access to reproductive health as well as a global access to treatment are essential.

Countries must also step up efforts to assist families and communities in caring for orphans and children affected by the epidemic, to ensure that they remain in school and to protect orphans from exploitation.

Mr. Chairman,

Access to treatment and care, going beyond access to drugs, is crucial in stopping the terrible burden that HIV/AIDS puts on individuals, families, communities and whole societies. While we need to prevent new infections, we cannot accept that the plight of those infected and affected by the disease is not reduced, when we have the tools to do so. We cannot accept that most of our common development efforts are put at risk. The reasons and consequences of sickness and stigma on the world’s population - gender inequality, hunger, lack of education, less economic perspectives, demographic issues, to name but a few – can be reduced by giving a sustainable access to affordable drugs to those who need it. We should also recall the special burden on women, who are also the main caregivers for family members infected with HIV.

In that regard, the EU fully supports the “3 by 5�? initiative by WHO, that has been showing that it is possible to increase the number of people under treatment and to reduce mortality linked to HIV/AIDS. More particularly, the EU has been instrumental in establishing, funding and promoting the effectiveness of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. We are determined to ensure that it continues to promptly disburse funding in support of programmes directed at prevention, treatment and care of people living with HIV/AIDS and that provide affordable access to medicines and commodities. In this regard, the EU welcomes the UN Secretary General’s call in his report In Larger Freedom to ensure a full funding of the Global Fund.

In this context, the EU strongly welcomes recent positive developments in relation to the provision of anti-retroviral drugs at affordable prices in the world’s poorest countries. We underline the importance of the WTO General Council Decision relating to paragraph 6 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. We undertake to proceed, without delay, with the corresponding amendment of the TRIPS Agreement and its implementation in domestic legislation.

Mr Chairman,

All these essential strategies for HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health programmes must contribute to the overall strengthening and sustainability of health systems. Our prevention and treatment efforts depend on one crucial thing: capacity building and reinforcement of human resources. This is the single most important aspect in ensuring not only ownership, but also the sustainability of the actions undertaken. At country level, it is of crucial importance to strengthen capacity and human resources development with regard to efficient training, as well as working conditions which are key to the delivery of sexual and reproductive health care and services.

Another crucial issue to ensure success is a sustained increase and more efficient use of resources. In that context, it is necessary to foster the coordination and the harmonisation of international action. We reaffirm our support to the activities of UNAIDS and its the participating UN agencies, and endorse our commitment to the Three Ones, The guiding principles�? promoted by UNAIDS.

The EU is currently developing, through the European Commission, a global action plan, encompassing proposals for the implementation, the monitoring, as well as the coordination of the EU’s future actions with regards to the three major diseases linked to poverty, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Mr. Chairman,

HIV/AIDS must be treated as both an emergency and a long-term development issue and it must be addressed through a wide array of efforts. Although there are more funds available now than ever to address the epidemic, it is still much less than what is needed. A massive effort is required to attain a response that matches the scale of the global AIDS epidemic. Past decades have shown what it will take to prevent the spread of HIV and mitigate the impact of the AIDS epidemic. Greater investments in health systems and education services, in particular for women, are essential if we are fighting effectively against HIV and reaching the MDG’s. The EU strongly believes that the serious about alleviating poverty successful implementation of the Cairo agenda in all its aspects will contribute to poverty reduction, gender equality, the improvement of the status of women and to the fight against HIV/AIDS, which are all key objectives of EU development policy. We know what works – the challenge now is to translate that knowledge into concrete, effective and targeted action.

I thank you for your attention.

* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

This page was last modified on : 08-04-2005

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