Statement at the Follow-up meeting to the outcome of the twenty-sixth special session:

implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS Plenary Meeting by HE Dr Mohamed Latheef

Friday, 2 June 2006


Since the General Assembly sat in special session in 2001 to commit to combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic, much has been achieved. The report of the Secretary-General clearly registers major efforts by individual countries and the international community as a whole. Financial resources made available for HIV/AIDS programmes have increased, access for the victims to medication and antiretroviral therapy has been significantly enhanced in many developing countries, and awareness amongst the most vulnerable and high-risk sectors has improved as well.

A once endless, dark tunnel is now finally starting to flicker with light. Proper planning, sustained resources and the effective implementation of prevention programmes have yielded positive results. The achievements of some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as some States in southern India, stand out to justify that hope. However, we cannot be complacent. This is only a fraction of the effort that is required to halt and reverse the spread of the epidemic and to achieve the targets of the Millennium Development Goals.

In the Maldives, a comprehensive National AIDS Control Program was established in 1987, four years before the first case of HIV was diagnosed. Since then, that multi-sectoral programme, with strong political commitment and leadership at the highest levels of Government, and the active participation of non- governmental organizations and the private sector, has played the central role in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in the country. Strong religious and cultural convictions, as well as the remoteness of the country, may have contributed to the prevention of an onslaught thus far.

The first case of HIV/AIDS was detected in the country in 1991. Since then, to date a total of 11 cases have been confirmed, of which six patients have sadly passed away of AIDS-related diseases. Although the number of cases may be relatively small, the potential threat that looms over my country cannot be overemphasized. Of late, our population has become increasingly mobile, while at the same time our dependence on a floating migrant worker population has inflated. That, combined with the wide circulation of a large tourist population, has exposed us to an unprecedented level of vulnerability. The high rate of divorce and remarriage, the high rate of unemployment among youth, the rise in drug and substance abuse among young people, as well as the numerous constraints on conducting an effective awareness and surveillance programmes — due to the lack of human and financial resources and to logistical difficulties caused by the structural handicaps of the country — are but some factors that contribute to the prospect of a feared epidemic in the country. Furthermore, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami has posed new challenges for my country. If not addressed on an urgent basis, those challenges could yield a fertile environment for exacerbated vulnerability.

My country is confident that this High-level Meeting of the General Assembly will reaffirm the commitments made in the 2001 Declaration and chart a clear course of action for the future. That should be a course to which all peoples of the world, regardless of their social, cultural, religious or political differences, can fully subscribe. Ensuring the full protection and enjoyment of the fundamental human rights of affected people, eliminating stigma and discrimination and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women should remain fundamental and should form the core of our work. It is absolutely essential for us all to demonstrate our full political will and to commit all the resources that are required to achieve our targets. We believe that the active and dedicated involvement

of civil society and private sector stakeholders, such as the pharmaceutical industry and large multinational corporations, is a prerequisite if we are to fight this epidemic in a meaningful manner.

I assure the Assembly of the full support and cooperation of my country; we pledge to do all we can to rid the world of this deadly pandemic.