Talking Points for UNRC for the National World Aids Day Commemoration 2015

Dec 1, 2015

Your honour the Vice President, Mr. Mokgweetsi Masisi
Hon. Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, Minister of Health
Hon. Thapelo Olopeng, Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture
Hon. Botogile Tshiriletso, Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development
Ms. Grace Muzila, National Aids Coordinator
Senior Government Officials
Representative from the Tonota Sub-District
Members of the Diplomatic Corp
UN colleagues, in particular the Heads of UNAIDS and UNICEF here present
Representatives of the Non-governmental Organizations and Community Based Organizations
Friends from the media
Dumelang Bo Mma Le Bo Rra

It’s a great pleasure for me to address this World AIDS Day Commemoration today.
Allow me to start by stressing the obvious. Botswana has made phenomenal progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS over the last 15 years. It has shown the world that it is doable, i.e. to successfully fight an epidemic that was about to bring the country down. The success of Botswana and its leadership throughout this period cannot be overemphasised.
This said, at the global level, we see a mixed picture. The good news is that the annual number of new infection globally has dropped from 3.1 million 15 years ago to 2 million.  The number of children acquiring HIV have fallen by two thirds in the past 5 years. The global target of having 15 million people on HIV treatment by 2015 was reached nine months earlier than target - a testimony to the force of global collective action guided by an ambitious and robust strategy. 
The not-so-good news is the AIDS epidemic is far from over, despite all achievements. There are still 22 million people living with HIV who do not have access to treatment world-wide that is 60% of all people living with the virus. Of the estimated 2 million people acquiring HIV in 2014, nearly half lived in eastern and southern Africa. In much of this region, adolescent girls and young women are at disproportionate risk.
In many ways, Botswana has been a leader in responding to the epidemic. It has one of the highest AIDS treatment coverage rates in the region, and it has controlled mother to child transmission at a rate of around 2%.
However, and there is always a but, despite all efforts made by the Government of Botswana and its partners, there are still significant outstanding challenges.

At today’s occasion, I have three messages that I would like to share with you.

Firstly, the epidemic is not yet over, neither globally, nor in Botswana. Botswana still faces a prolonged and severe HIV epidemic, which makes Botswana one of the countries in the world with the highest HIV prevalence. The HIV prevalence rate for pregnant women is around 30% and the prevalence for women aged 34-39 is above 50%.  There is no time to relax. Complacency is not an option.

Secondly, we need to redouble our efforts to reduce the rate of new infections. The HIV incidence rate has not come down in any significant way in the recent past. It’s particularly worrisome that we know that people increasingly have unprotected sex with multiple concurrent partners, that condom use has gone down and the uptake of male circumcision is low. In addition the existence of intergenerational sex, alcohol and high-risk sex, gender-based violence (GBV), stigma and discrimination fuels the epidemic further.

The un-proportionate high risk of HIV infection among females falls into a regional pattern.  Over a period of not more than five years, from 2008 to 2013, the HIV prevalence for girls between 15-19 year old doubled and at the 20-24 years increased three times more than for boys of the same age group.

An HIV/AIDS sensitive legal and policy environment can help to enhance the access to HIV services by key populations, hence contribute to the reduction new infections.

Thirdly, Botswana must reaffirm its financial commitment to continue to invest heavily in HIV/AIDS, particularly in the area of prevention, in order to reinforce actions aimed at combating the epidemic. This may give better returns if the investment could be frontloaded in the coming five years as a fast track move. We must have a two prone approach to prevention. One, make the health based system as robust as possible to meet increasing demands, and two, through community based programming reduce vulnerabilities that put adolescents and young people at higher risk of exposure to HIV. By doing so, Botswana can achieve the 90-90-90 targets of having more people knowing their HIV status, having those HIV positive on treatment as early as possible and keeping those on treatment well adherent. With such measures in place we could overcome the epidemic by means of new infections being lower than the number of deaths, bringing us closer to the goal of ending AIDS in Botswana, when HIV will no longer be a major public health threat.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were approved by the UN General Assembly two months ago in the presence of His Honour the Vice President, gave all stakeholders a mandate to collaborate for global collective action.  Ending AIDS is one of the concrete targets of the SDG Goal 3 under the spirit of leaving no one behind, and it links with other SDGs, as the epidemic cannot be ended without addressing the determinants of vulnerability and the holistic needs of people living with and at risk of HIV.
Let’s continue to work together towards the goals zero aids related deaths, zero new infections and zero discrimination. In this regard, you can count on the full and unconditional support by the United Nations

At this juncture, allow me to read the message by the United Nations Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon. I quote:

This year, we mark World AIDS Day with new hope. I applaud the staunch advocacy of activists. I commend the persistent efforts of health workers. And I pay tribute to the principled stance of human rights defenders and the courage of all those who have joined forces to fight for global progress against the disease.
             World leaders have unanimously committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September. This commitment reflects the power of solidarity to forge, from a destructive disease, one of the most inclusive movements in modern history.
  We have a lot to learn from the AIDS response. One by one people stood up for science, human rights and the empowerment of all those living with HIV. And this is how we will end the epidemic: by moving forward together.
The window of opportunity to act is closing. That is why I am calling for a Fast-Track approach to front-load investments and close the gap between needs and services. 
To break the epidemic and prevent it from rebounding, we must act on all fronts. We need to more than double the number of people on life-changing treatment to reach all 37 million of those living with HIV. We need to provide adolescent girls and young women with access to education and real options to protect themselves from HIV. And we need to provide key populations with full access to services delivered with dignity and respect. 
Every child can be born free from HIV to mothers who not only survive but thrive. Ending AIDS is essential to the success of Every Woman Every Child and the Global Strategy I launched to ensure the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents within a generation. 
Reaching the Fast-Track Targets will prevent new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths while eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
I look forward to the 2016 High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on AIDS as a critical chance for the world to commit to Fast-Track the end of AIDS. 
On this World AIDS Day, let us pay tribute to all those who have lost their lives to this disease by renewing our resolve to stand for justice, access and greater hope around the world.
End quote.

Thank you

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