December 16, 2017

Statement by the Foreign Minister Mr. George Iacovou at the UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

Mr. President, Excellencies,

Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Three decades after the first AIDS case was reported humanity is faced with a global and persistent humanitarian disaster, which has gravely affected entire geographic regions. Our inability to substantially contain the number of infections and formulate multi-dimensional policies to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic, result in two million agonizing deaths a year. Variables such as poverty and increasing inequalities in wealth distribution, socio-economic underdevelopment, gender inequality, illiteracy, restricted access to information, and armed conflict inhibit our efforts to arrest the spread of HIV.

We welcome the achievements of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. We also welcome the work of other agencies within the United Nations System and commend them for their dedication to prevent, monitor, and support individuals and communities. Their efforts, in combination with the considerable growth in HIV-related expenditure, signify the immensely significant role of the United Nations in fighting the pandemic. We consider that a successful strategy should also encompass Programmes operating on a regional level and tasked with complementing National Programmes. The implementation of existing agreements aiming to make HIV medication affordable in developing countries must also be ensured, an endeavour that could prolong the lives of millions of sufferers in some of the most deprived areas.

Mr. President,

My delegation has aligned itself with the statement presented earlier by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy on behalf of the European Union. I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to make a few remarks on the situation of HIV/AIDS in Cyprus.

Since the diagnosis of its first AIDS case in 1986, Cyprus has considered the issue to be among its highest priorities, which is one of the main reasons it remains a very low prevalence country with 0,1% of the population infected. All initiatives pursued by the Cyprus Government since 1986 have been conducted in close co-operation with the World Health Organisation. We have proceeded to establish the National AIDS Committee of Cyprus, which comprises all competent governmental authorities and departments in Cyprus, as well as private institutions and NGOs, and set up a specialized agency responsible for policy in this field.

The agency’s primary function is to offer patients living with HIV and AIDS (at no cost to them) the most advanced combination of medical treatments and the necessary social support to sustain their quality of life. The aforementioned Committee also acts as a mechanism against discrimination of HIV positive citizens and has targeted public awareness, especially among high-risk groups, to maintain the existing low incidence.

Even though data patterns regarding HIV infection have been governed by stability and consistency since the first case was reported, the situation continues to be closely monitored by conducting studies to assess the threat posed by factors intimately linked to the virus, such as sexual behaviour and drug abuse. Moreover, Cyprus is currently drafting a new Strategic Plan, which will incorporate all new developments regarding HIV, and will stress multilevel interventions and intersectoral collaboration.

Lastly, the updated and comprehensive legal framework intended to safeguard the equal treatment of all citizens regardless of their health status, forms the basis of our attempts to eliminate any stigmatisation with regard to AIDS patients.

I wish to reiterate, on behalf of my Government, our determination to preserve an active interest on a national and international level in order to maximize the efficacy of our actions. We should not permit the failure of this impressive initiative by the UN Secretary General to collectively mobilize the resources of the International Community in order to restrict the pervasiveness and impact of this ruthless pandemic.

Thank you.

 

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