UNAIDS Speech at the Launching Ceremony of the 2011 National Action Month on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control

Your Excellencies Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc,

Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien,

Members of the National Committee for AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention and Control,

Leaders of Provincial Party, People’s Council, People’s Committee and the people of Nam Dinh,

Colleagues and friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Joint United Nations Team on HIV in Viet Nam, thank you for inviting me to join you this morning. It is wonderful to see so many representatives of different sectors and organizations, as well as people from multiple generations coming together to support the national response to HIV.I am especially honourned to speak in the presence of  Your Excellency  Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and the new leaders of the National Committee for AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention and Control here at the launch of the National Action Month on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control.

This year – 2011 – marks 30 years since the global AIDS epidemic began, and also the start of a new phase in the response where Viet Nam and the world are aiming to achieve a very ambitious goal called “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths”. This vision of Getting to Zero is grounded in the “Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying our Efforts to Eliminate HIV/AIDS” that was agreed upon  by Viet Nam and other countries at the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS that took place in June 2011.

Viet Nam has selected Getting to Zero New HIV Infections to be the theme for this year’s National Action Month on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. This is very much consistent with the priority of the Government of Viet Nam that was shared at the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS in June.

Getting to Zero is a very ambitious goal but we have reasons to believe we can make it. Globally, new HIV infections fell by 25% between 2001 and 2009, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by nearly 20% in the past 5 years, and the total number of people on treatment has increased 22-fold since 2001.

Viet Nam has also made huge progresses in preventing the spread of HIV and providing treatment to people living with HIV over the past ten years, since the first UN General Assembly Special Session on AIDS in 2001. I congratulate you and commend Viet Nam on the achievements you have gained so far.

Viet Nam has one of the best laws on HIV and a legal framework for protecting the rights of people living with and affected by HIV. Viet Nam has a harm reduction program that widely provides needles and syringes, condoms and methadone to people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men and sex workers to help prevent the spread of HIV. By September 2011, there were 39 methadone clinics in 11 provinces compared to just a few in two provinces two years before, and methadone has been provided to more than 6000 people who inject drugs. More than 20 millions condoms and needles and syringes have been distributed in the first nine months of 2011. Viet Nam is providing life-saving treatment to more than 50% of all people living with HIV in need, which is an 18-fold increase over the last five years. The direction of the response is in line with the nature of the epidemic in Viet Nam which is concentrated within key populations groups – predominantly people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients, and the sexual partners of these people.

To get to Zero New Infections, even more investment is needed in high impact prevention programmes that provide key populations at higher risk of HIV infection with tools and services that work, such as condoms for sex workers and men who have sex with men, and methadone maintenance therapy for people who inject drugs.

As more and more people living with HIV receive treatment, it will be also important to simplify their healthcare by integrating HIV treatment services within the existing healthcare system. This will improve service linkages, bring down costs so more people can be reached with same level resources and help us achieve Zero AIDS- related deaths. I would like to congratulate Viet Nam for being a pioneer in piloting Treatment 2.0, a radically simplified HIV treatment platform that will help the country do more with less and achieve this Zero.

However, we can not forget that one of the three zeros is “Zero discrimination”. Reshaping the national response to HIV and doing more with less is not enough for Viet Nam to Get to Zero if stigma and discrimination still keep people at higher risk of infection and people living with HIV away from using HIV services.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Working on all the three zeros and actually “Getting to Zero” are very difficult, but I believe it is not impossible. The UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe said at the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS this June that “Getting to Zero is a bold commitment made by all countries that brings hope to millions of people living with and affected by HIV and their families” . And with the great Vietnamese tradition in mobilizing the strength of the entire people that Nam Dinh City very well symbolizes today, with the strong political support and leadership that Your Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and other leaders of the National Committee for AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention and Control are showing today, I believe Viet Nam can do it.

Once again I congratulate you and Viet Nam. You have chosen to focus on Getting to Zero New HIV Infections – a goal that will best address the HIV epidemic in your country. Focusing on prevention can help Viet Nam Get to Zero and achieve national targets towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in a changing environment where funding for HIV is fast decreasing and Viet Nam needs to do more with less.

Let us all take personal responsibility in the fight against HIV and keep the promise to stop HIV. In this AIDS Action Month, let us all share with our colleagues, friends, family and neighbors the messages of Getting to Zero and invite them to join action month activities in their locality. If you do this, you will be helping Viet Nam to achieve Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination, Zero AIDS-related deaths, and thus contributing to the bright future of Viet Nam.

Thank you and I wish you all good health.

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