Statement by His Excellency Mr Ahmed Sareer
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the UN
High Level Meeting on Ending HIV/AIDS
New York, 8 June 2016
Mr. President, Excellencies, and Delegates,
Just last September the international community agreed to accelerate the pace of progress made in fighting HIV/AIDS in an effort to end the epidemic by 2030. And today we are gathered here to reaffirm our collective commitment to complete the eradication of HIV/AIDS. The Republic of Maldives applaudss the international community for their steadfast dedication to this cause, and fully supports the political declaration "On the fast track to accelerate the fight against HIV, and to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030".
My delegation commends the Secretary General for convening this meeting, as well as for his report, which outlined the importance of the implementation of the Sustainable Development goals in our quest to eradicate HIV/AIDS. The report also outlined the need for regional approaches in fast tracking our response to HIV/AIDS, given the different epidemic patterns of HIV/AIDS.
The collective efforts of the international community to address the AIDS epidemic have yielded significant results, including fewer new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. Continued efforts in the areas of poverty reduction, maternal and child health, and gender equality will undoubtedly enable us to go further. Nevertheless, AIDS remains a public health and development challenge.
Under the Global Goals adopted last year, the world has committed unanimously to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The implementation of this commitment requires urgent and steadfast action as well as continued investments. The High-level Meeting comes at a point where it is crucial to advance the AIDS response in a way that it also enables the realisation of sustainable development goals.
The Government of Maldives has always placed high importance on mobilizing national response to HIV and AIDS, and continues to treat it as a major public health concern. While HIV and AIDS in Maldives is categorized as low prevalence, research shows that there is high vulnerability and risks, and that the country has a high epidemic potential.
Up to 2015, 23 HIV positive cases were reported in the Maldives, among whom 12 have died of AIDS. Currently there are nine persons living with HIV, they are all on Anti-Retroviral Treatment. The Maldives has a test and treat policy on treatment initiation, and the Government provides lifelong care and treatment.
Although the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in Maldives is below 1%, emerging trends have increased the risk of increased exposure of locals to a wide range of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Moreover injecting drug use, associated high risk sexual behaviors remain the most likely triggers for an HIV epidemic in the Maldives. As such, Maldives supports the attention to address HIV prevention strategies targeted at drug users, among other key populations.
The Maldives is committed to working diligently to maintain the low prevalence of HIV in the country. The National AIDS Program, which operates under the Health Protection Agency of the Ministry of Health coordinates the efforts to prevent and control HIV and AIDS. The Maldives has a multi-sectorial National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS, effective 2014-2018, with 3 major objectives; Firstly, to strengthen essential services targeted at Key Affected Populations, secondly, to improve prevention efforts for general population and special groups including youth and migrants, and third, to reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS. The National Strategic Plan also provides a framework for achieving three underlying strategic directions. These directions highlight the need to strengthen HIV prevention, care, treatment and support services, the need to improve strategic information systems for HIV programmes and research and the importance of creating an enabling environment.
Despite the preventive and control measures taken by the Government to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS, the Maldives is confronted with much constraints in carrying out effective and efficient targeted programs and interventions. The geographical distribution of Maldives makes the implementation and delivery of these services extremely expensive, with transportation between atolls taking a bulk of funding. Following the graduation of Maldives from the Least Developed Country list, it has been a challenge to access funding systems such as the Global Fund, as is the case in getting preferential access. Arbitrary classifications based on income levels unfairly disadvantage genuine needs. Additionally, civil society partners in this field are limited and therefore limits the ability to target Key Affected Populations.
We are hopeful that our renewed commitment from this high level event will bring about the changes; by harnessing inclusiveness through a differentiated approach to allow countries such as the Maldives, to tap into the funding and technical expertise required to fight against HIV and AIDS. My delegation looks forward to working with all Member States as we take on the fight to eliminate HIV/AIDS by 2030. We call upon all involved to support each other in working towards delivering favorable outcomes for the noble cause.