UNAIDS World AIDS Day Speech in Ho Chi Minh CIty, 1 December 2007

Saturday 1 December, 2007
Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam 

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak, and for giving me a reason to return to dynamic Ho Chi Minh City.  This evening we are hearing many words and many speeches.  With so many words, we can get lost.  So I am only going to give you the facts. 

Fact one: More than 100 Vietnamese people get infected by HIV every day, and more than 80% of current HIV-infections are among 20-39 year-olds.  These are the young people; the hope and the future of Viet Nam.  What will happen to this country, this land that you battled so long and so hard for, if the young people are lost to HIV?  In his statement for World AIDS Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, “AIDS is a disease unlike any other. It is a social issue, a human rights issue, an economic issue…It does to society what HIV does to the human body — reduces resilience and weakens capacity, hampers development and threatens stability.”

Fact two: Ho Chi Minh City is leading the national response to HIV.  You have piloted challenging and controversial programs here, like harm reduction in prisons, multisectoral coordination and management of aid by the People’s Committee.  Here there is excellent access to ARV therapy and PMTCT.  But despite this, prevalence of HIV in Ho Chi Minh City is still one of the highest in the country.  Even though the momentum of activism here is so potent that if it swept across the entire country we would be looking at a very different reality today – despite this, we still have a long way to go.

Fact three: Words will not help us.  They say that silence on HIV and AIDS is deadly, and it is – but inaction is deadlier.  We must turn our words into action!  

Fact four: The people of Viet Nam are such a people of action.  Viet Nam has become a member of the World Trade Organisation, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and will soon be a middle income country.  Your leaders, acting out of the compassion of their hearts and the wisdom of their heads, are fighting tirelessly to keep your country on its upward trajectory.  

The fact is this: Ho Chi Minh City has already taken the lead on behalf of the nation – and you must continue!  Ho Chi Minh City: take the lead to fight stigma and discrimination!  Ho Chi Minh City: take the lead to implement methadone substitution therapy!  Ho Chi Minh City: take the lead to re-integrate returnees from 05/06 centres back into the community, help them to find jobs and continue to access social and healthcare services!  The way that the people of Ho Chi Minh City have tackled this epidemic brings to mind the encouragement of the great Ho Chi Minh – your city’s namesake – who said, ‘if you are patient and determined you can even move a mountain or fill an ocean.’

I hope I will be with you again next year, on World AIDS Day 2008.  And I hope that on that day we will not be listing facts, but celebrating concrete achievements.  Viet Nam will defeat HIV because Ho Chi Minh City has taken the lead!  Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh vo dich!

Thank you for your attention.  I wish you good night and good health.

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Green One UN House, 304 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi, Viet Nam