UN Speech on HIV/Aids
Statement of The State of Qatar
H.E. Dr. Hajar Ahmad Hajar Albinali
Minister of Public Health
at the Special Session of the
U.N. General Assembly
25 - 27 June 2001
June 26, 2001, • New York
When HIV/AIDS was discovered the first time twenty years ago, no one had expected that this tiny virus would be the biggest global health threat to the entire mankind, as it disrupts the social and demographic structure and destroys economies and threatens the political stability of many countries.
Furthermore, the emergence of new strains of HIV, that resist the existing anti-retroviral medicines, makes it imperative that we develop a future strategy to effectively respond to these new strains of the virus whenever they are discerned.
The latest statistics indicate that the number of people living with HIV has reached 38 million and that 22 million people have died since the beginning of the pandemic, most of whom were at the peak of their productive life, i.e. 15 - 49 years of age. This will definitely leave a significant imbalance in the population structure of societies in many countries as well as the negative impact on human resources badly needed to move the wheels of the economy.
The rampant spread of this serious illness in our small planet in this short period of time requires immediate global alertness and a sincere and firm position by all to combat this awful epidemic. And I believe that we are capable of achieving this goal since, over the past 20 years, we have accumulated great knowledge about all aspects of the disease that should enable us to stop it from spreading further. It is now time to provide the necessary political commitment to utilize and apply this knowledge.
We, in the State of Qatar, believe in the importance of cultural diversity because we trust that it enriches humans progress and development. However, when some specific risky types of behavior in certain societies become a source of danger for the rest of the world, as they are closely linked with HIV spread, then we are required to stand up against such behaviors.
The State of Qatar is doing its best to fight this disease and to limit its spread. And since we are not isolated from the rest of the world, we have diagnosed 164 cases during the last 20 years, most of them acquired the virus from blood transfusion of imported blood before 1985. Although our numbers seem to be small, the relatively small number of the country's population, of about 600,000 people makes every newly discovered case a disaster.
The State of Qatar provides all the necessary medical services and support for people living with HIV/AIDS, including anti-retroviral therapy, psychological and social counseling for patients and their families, and ensures their enjoyment of their full civil and political rights. The State of Qatar is convinced that the best way to prevent the spread of the disease is through increasing awareness among the population. The Qatari society remains mostly religious and conservative, which helped in limiting the spread of the disease.
The lack of commitment towards the fundamental principles of good human behavior, basic social values, and religious or spiritual teachings, is the most important element in the rapid spread of this disease throughout the world. Therefore we must emphasize the importance of teaching those basic principles in our school curricula, and emphasize to our children the link between the lack of those values and the risk for many serious infectious diseases.
In addition, we need to be good examples to our youth emphasizing to them the long honored values and principles that we inherited, and discourage them from blindly following glimmering but risky types of behavior.
This ravaging spread of HIV throughout the world requires that we stand up together and take up the responsibility as a whole, and get rid of, the notion that this disease is someone else's responsibility. Indeed, the world has become small, and people are no longer isolated from each other, and any threat of infectious disease in any country in the world is a threat to the whole world.
Therefore, the State of Qatar supports the following steps to be taken:
First: Tackling the problem of the developing countries debts, especially the poorest countries heavily afflicted by the epidemic. Thus, there is an urgent need for providing more financial resources from developed nations in addition to the commitment of the G-7 group to write off some of the debts carried by countries afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
Second: Development and improvement of the health systems in those countries to provide proper medical care, treatment and follow up for HIV patients; permission to transfer the technologies of anti-retroviral medications and prohibits monopoly. Providing such medicines at an affordable cost for low-income countries, and ensuring continuity of supply of such medicines, regardless of the negative impact such policies may have on the profits of big drug companies.
Third: Exchanging expertise in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention in order to limit the spread of the virus using all necessary means and tools to achieve this, including the availability of condoms and sterile syringes.
Fourth: Intensifying the efforts to support scientific research in order to hasten the fording of a definite cure for the disease, and in order to come up with an effective vaccine that can be used to eradicate the virus from the face of the earth, as we did with smallpox.
Fifth: Providing prophylaxis against latent tuberculosis infection for all HIV infected individuals since TB is the main cause of
death among HIV-positive people in developing countries, taking into consideration the fact that the spread of HIV created a favorable environment for the spread of multi-drug resistant TB.
Sixth: The most important action that will have an immediate positive impact is investing more money and efforts towards increasing the awareness at the society level, and creating an international sense of responsibility at an individual level with more emphasis on adhering to moral values.
In conclusion, Mr. President, I extend my thanks to you, to the Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Kufi Anan, and to your assistants for your commendable efforts in organizing and sponsoring this special session of the General Assembly.
Thank you Mr. Chairman