2011 marks 30 years of AIDS and 10 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Commitment in 2001. Three decades into the epidemic and the struggle goes on. Over the past 30 years the HIV/AIDS pandemic has left no corner of the world untouched affecting progress and development in many countries and challenging the Millennium Development Goals.
Cyprus subscribes to the statement made earlier by the European Union. I would like, however, to make some additional comments from a national perspective.
In Cyprus, HIV/AIDS infection is at very low prevalence rate of 0.1% of its population. The Government, since AIDS first appeared in Cyprus, has made the issue one of its highest priorities. As of then, we set up time-bound plans of action against the epidemic, which are systematically updated and adjusted based on new knowledge and experience and technological advances.
Cyprus’s policy is formulated in line with the EU directives and in close cooperation with its EU and other international partners. In 2008 the national epidemiological surveillance was upgraded in order to conform to the requirements of EuroHIV.
Prevention of HIV and protection of human rights are the cornerstone of our new 2010-2014 Strategic Plan. In our campaign against HIV/AIDS a multisectoral, all-inclusive approach is followed aiming at the prevention of HIV/infection and the care and support of people with HIV/AIDS. All competent governmental authorities, the private sector, civil society and NGOs, actively promote inclusion of all parts of society, especially the vulnerable, in spreading HIV public awareness and alleviating stigma and discrimination.
Treatment, including combination antiretroviral therapies, care, voluntary counseling and testing are provided free to all citizens of the Republic and EU citizens as well as to political refugees. Data patterns regarding HIV infection in Cyprus present a stable and consistent trend. Nevertheless, the Government continues to strictly monitor the situation by conducting studies to assess the threat posed by factors linked to the virus like the trafficking and use of drugs and the intense population movements to, and from, Cyprus and across the dividing line.
The report of the UN Secretary-General indicates that substantial progress has been made in the past three decades. However, HIV continues to deepen poverty, increase hunger, slow progress on maternal and child health and exacerbate other infectious diseases. Stigma, discrimination and gender inequality continue to undermine efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
The battle is not yet won, and we have not yet done enough.
In the road ahead, political leadership is indispensable and a major asset in our response to AIDS. But equally essential is practical and financial support.
Health and HIV/AIDS are important thematic priorities of CyprusAid, the Development Cooperation Service of the Republic. Several health projects have been financed by CyprusAid in the area of HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights. As of 2010 more than 2 million Euros have been channeled to specific health projects which have either been completed or are under implementation, in the fields of prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and for fighting malnutrition on people affected by HIV/AIDS.
In 2009, Cyprus joined UNITAID, the Leading Group on Innovative Financing and actively participates with a contribution of a 2.5 million Euros over a six year period. Innovative Financing Mechanisms play a very important role in the mobilization of resources and should be encouraged and further explored.
Cyprus joins the international community in renewing the promise to work with diligence and determination, globally, regionally and nationally at the highest political level, in order to achieve our commitments of ultimately realizing our common objective of halting and reversing the spread of AIDS.
The Political Declaration which will be adopted by this august body sends a strong message across the globe that the international community is determined and united to do everything possible for a world free of HIV/AIDS