Mr Sidibé, Excellencies, friends
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all and to open this round of consultations here in Oslo.
I would like to start by saying that the Norwegian Government recognises the vital importance of UNAIDS’ efforts to eliminate transmission of HIV, AIDS-related mortality and discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.
We have only been in office a little over five months, so this is still a fairly new government. I would therefore like to confirm our commitment to improving global health and fighting HIV and AIDS.
Right from the start, this Government identified global health as a priority in our international cooperation.
There are still immense needs to be met, but the huge returns we are continuing to see on global health investments show that a sustained effort brings real results.
There have been major successes in the field of global health, including MDG 6, in the past 10 years, and these will guide us as we intensify our global education efforts. We are seeking to learn from progress in and best practices that have been identified in the health sector so that we can use these in the education sector too.
One good example of interaction between education and health can be drawn from the empirical evidence that encouraging girls to continue secondary education significantly reduces their risk of HIV infection.
This kind of cross-cutting approach is also important in developing the post-2015 development agenda. UNAIDS serves as a good example of how we should work in the future, since it was designed to bring together a wide variety of approaches and organisations all working towards the same aim.
However – and I think this cannot be stated too often – our main focus for now must still be on the pre-2015 agenda and on achieving the current MDGs.
With UNAIDS in the driving seat, the world has already made a great deal of progress.
The alarming prospect of another ‘Black Death spurred the global community to take action at the beginning of the 90s.
After what some people felt was a slow start, the UN stepped up to the challenge with the establishment of UNAIDS in 1996 as an arena for strategy development and advocacy, working to find the right solutions.
Slowly, we started to see results. A broad global campaign took form. Innovation gradually revolutionised treatment options.
Funding increased. And not just international funding, domestic funding as well. Domestic funding now makes up about 50 % of all funding for HIV and AIDS efforts.
Prices of medication have dropped, and millions more can be reached with effective treatment. The number of new infections is down by a third from 2001. Deaths resulting from AIDS have also dropped by a third from 2005. There are still over 35 million people who are infected – but not hundreds of millions.
This is where we are today. Now, where do we go from here?
More and more new treatment options have been developed, but access to these and wider access to antiretroviral therapy and HIV prevention are still important issues.
As you know, these issues are not only a question of resource allocation, but also highly political. Although millions more people have access to prevention, treatment and care, some key populations in many regions, particularly in Africa, are continuing to lag behind.
The number of new infections is still alarmingly high. There needs to be a sustained focus on prevention for us to at all envision a future generation free of aids.
If the success of UNAIDs’ efforts is to continue, a rights-based approach will be vital. The Norwegian Government is emphasising human rights, and especially the rights of sexual minorities, in its foreign and development policy, and views this as an essential approach to the HIV and AIDS epidemic as well.
I hope this meeting will be able to explore how best to maintain the advances that have already been made and to continue to make progress both now and after 2015.