Annie’s Opening Speech – Fast-Track Cities: Ending the AIDS epidemic

June 2016, world leaders, government representatives, HIV programme implementers and civil society organizations from across the world have gathered for a UN High-level Meeting on Ending AIDS  to chart the way forward to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. The meeting will consit of a number of Official Panels, Side events and other events.

Yesterday Annie in her role as unaids global Goodwill Ambassador spoke at the opening  of a side event hosted ny MAC aids Foundation “Title of event” . This  Unaids led initiative on brought together mayors from all over the world to discuss solutions to end aids in urban settings.

“MY FIRST DIRECT INTRODUCTION TO HIV/AIDS, WAS 13 YEARS AGO IN CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA, WHEN I TOOK PART IN A SPECIAL CONCERT TO LAUNCH NELSON MANDELA’S HIV AIDS FOUNDATION – 46664.

THE DAY BEFORE THE CONCERT, ALL THE ARTISTS WERE INVITED TO JOIN MANDELA ON ROBBEN ISLAND, WHERE HE HELD AN INTERNATIONAL PRESS CONFERENCE, SENDING OUT A GLOBAL MESSAGE, TELLING THE WORLD IN UNEQUIVOCAL TERMS THAT A VIRTUAL GENOCIDE WAS TAKING PLACE IN HIS COUNTRY, WITH WOMEN AND CHILDREN BEING THE MOST AFFECTED.
 
WITH THE WORLD’S HIGHEST RATE OF INFECTION, THERE WAS NO EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC.
WITH LACK OF ACCESS TO LIFE SAVING TREATMENT, COUPLED WITH DESPERATELY FAILING HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS …..STIGMA – SILENCE AND DENIAL ALL UNDERMINED EFFORTS TO DEAL WITH THIS CATASTROPHIC SITUATION.
WHEN I REALISED THE ENORMITY OF WHAT WAS ACTUALLY TAKING PLACE, I BECAME A COMMITTED AIDS CAMPAIGNER.
SINCE THEN, I HAVE PERSONALLY WITNESSED THE RAVAGES OF AIDS IN HOSPITAL WARDS, CLINICS, ORPHANAGES AND RAPE CRISIS CENTRES – IN PEOPLE’S HOMES, IN TOWNSHIPS AND VILLAGES, IN CITIES AND REMOTE RURAL AREAS.
I HAVE WITNESSED THE HARROWING VISION OF ROW UPON ROW OF CEMETERY GRAVE SITES, WAITING TO RECEIVE THE SKELETAL REMAINS OF MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN, WHO’S LIVES WERE TAKEN PREMATURELY BY AIDS.
I HAVE SEEN THE DESPERATE VULNERABILITY OF CHILD HEADED HOUSEHOLDS, WHO’S PARENT’S LIVES HAD BEEN WIPED OUT, LEAVING BEHIND TRAUMATISED CHILDREN TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES.
I HAVE ENCOUNTERED HIV POSITIVE WIDOWS OF PARTNERS WHO HAD INFECTED THEM WITH THE VIRUS – STRUGGLING TO BRING UP THEIR CHILDREN ALONE – STIGMATISED AND MARGINALISED BY FAMILY AND SOCIETY.
 
I HAVE ENCOUNTERED FRAIL AND AGEING GRANDMOTHERS, STALWARTLY TAKING CARE OF THEIR DECEASED CHILDREN’S CHILDREN, AT A TIME OF LIFE WHEN THEY THEMSELVES WERE THE ONES WHO NEEDED TO BE TAKEN CARE OF.
IN WITNESSING THESE THINGS, I SAW HOW THE AIDS PANDEMIC COULD LEAVE THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC FABRIC OF ENTIRE COUNTRIES IN TATTERS. – WIPING OUT CROSS SECTIONS OF GENERATIONS – AND DECIMATING POPULATIONS IN THEIR PRIME.
ALL THESE EXPERIENCES SHIFTED THE PARADIGM OF MY UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN RIGHTS, ESPECIALLY REGARDING THE ISSUE OF UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO LIFE SUSTAINING TREATMENT…..
 
AT THIS POINT IN TIME WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY IN THE FIGHT AGAINST AIDS, BUT WE ARE STILL LEAVING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE BEHIND…
 
WORLDWIDE – AIDS IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH AMONG WOMEN OF REPRODUCTIVE AGE AND THE LEADING CAUSE OF ADOLESCENT DEATH IN SUBSAHARAN AFRICA.
LAST YEAR ALONE, 2 MILLION PEOPLE WERE NEWLY INFECTED WITH HIV – OVER A MILLION PEOPLE DIED AND NEARLY A QUARTER OF A MILLION BABIES WERE INFECTED.
 
AS A WOMAN, A MOTHER AND A GLOBAL CITIZEN, I AM APPALLED BY THESE HORRIFIC FACTS… AND AS THE YEARS GO BY, I STILL DON’T HONESTLY THINK THAT THE WORLD HAS FULLY GRASPED THE SCALE OF THE DEVASTATION AIDS HAS WREAKED UPON COUNTLESS PEOPLE…. ESPECIALLY WOMEN AND GIRLS.
 
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…
WE ALL KNOW THAT TREMENDOUS PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE –
THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT DUE TO GLOBAL COMMITMENT OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS, WE’VE SEEN THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE ON TREATMENT RISE FROM 7.5 MILLION TO 17 MILLION TODAY..
THAT IS A TREMENDOUS ACCOMPLISHMENT WE CAN BE VERY PROUD OF!
 
AIDS RELATED DEATHS HAVE FALLEN BY 45% SINCE THE PEAK IN 2005.
 
NEW INFECTIONS AMONG CHILDREN HAVE DECLINED BY 50% SINCE 2010.
 
WE ARE NOW AT A CRUCIAL POINT WHERE UNAIDS BELIEVES WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO END THE AIDS EPIDEMIC ONCE AND FOR ALL IN OUR LIFETIME.
 
TO ACHIEVE THIS WE NEED TO BE BOLD AND INNOVATIVE IN REACHING EVERYONE AT RISK WITH HIV PREVENTION AND TESTING. – WE MUST ENSURE IMMEDIATE TREATMENT FOR EVERYONE WHO TESTS HIV POSITIVE, AND MAKE SURE THAT THEY HAVE ACCESS TO SUPPORT SERVICES.
 
TO REACH OUR GOAL, WE MUST CONTINUE ON “THE FAST TRACK“ ..SECURING THE RESOURCES NEEDED TO END THIS EPIDEMIC.
THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO TAKE OUR FOOT OFF THE ACCELERATOR –
THIS IS THE TIME TO DRIVE THINGS THROUGH OTHERWISE ALL THE GAINS WE HAVE MADE WILL START TO GO INTO REVERSE.
 
I WANT TO EXPRESS MY HEARTFELT GRATITUDE AND APPRECIATION TO EVERYONE HERE WHO HAS ALREADY SHOWN OUTSTANDING COMMITMENT.
LET’S CONTINUE ON THIS JOURNEY TOGETHER. WE NEED ACTION NOW MORE THAN EVER…IT’S DOWN TO YOU LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT – IN YOUR HANDS AND IN YOUR CITY.
THANK YOU SO MUCH

Annie Lennox