[Durban, 18 July 2016] Sixteen years ago, Nelson Mandela addressed the International AIDS Conference in Durban. He called it “a gathering of human beings concerned about turning around one of the greatest threats humankind has faced.”
Madiba brought his towering courage to this cause. He supported all people affected by HIV. He called for access to treatment, equity and human rights.
That was a turning point that led to remarkable global progress.
For every one person who received life-saving treatment back then, there are now 17 who have it today. That means we have increased 17 times at least the number of people treated.
But still, 20 million don’t get access and 13 million still do not get the care they deserve.
Today, some countries have no babies born with HIV. But many children living with HIV still lack treatment.
I call for Durban 2016 to mark the commitment to a new era when we finish what we started: the era of a fast-track response.
To end this epidemic, we must close the gaps that keep people from accessing services and living with dignity. We have to expand resources, science and services.
And we have to protect and promote the rights of people living with HIV, gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who inject drugs and prisoners.
When we do this, we can end stigma and discrimination, prevent the spread of HIV, and save lives.
Members of the press,
This will be my last International AIDS Conference as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I had the honour to succeed Kofi Annan, as you know very well, who was genuinely dedicated to this cause. He remains a great fighter against AIDS to this day.
Over the past ten years, some of my most moving meetings as Secretary-General have been with people who are living with HIV.
Just a few months ago, I visited a Paediatric HIV Support Unit in Burkina Faso.
The country has been hit hard by AIDS. Thousands of teens are living with HIV. Tens of thousands have lost a parent to the disease.
I was there to show my solidarity – and call for equity, access and justice for people living with HIV everywhere.
As I walked through the facility, I saw a young woman who looked as poised as any adult. Her name was Deborah. When I asked about her struggle, Deborah made a passionate appeal for assistance and good will from the international community.
Here in Durban, we can answer that appeal – for the sake of this bright young woman, for all people living with HIV and for future generations.
I count on your engagement and your strong commitment.