Message for World AIDS Day 2000
from Peter Piot, Executive Director, UNAIDS

The year 2000 has been a turning point in the world's recognition of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

In January, the United Nations Security Council debated AIDS as an issue of human security, the first time ever it has met on a health issue.

The focus was again on AIDS at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September, when leaders rose to address the most vital issues facing their nation and the world. African leaders, particularly, spoke openly about the plight of their countries. They were joined by other leaders from around the world, from the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and Belize to the Presidents of the United States of America and Viet Nam.

At meetings of the G8 in Okinawa, the G77 in Havana, the European Commission and Union, the Organization of African Unity, and CARICOM in the Caribbean, AIDS has been the subject of a renewed commitment.

Our task now is to turn these words of political commitment into action. The visibility of AIDS at global and national levels is a major opportunity to increase its visibility at the level of households and societies. This year's World AIDS Campaign - Men Make a Difference - throws out the challenge to men to be more open, honest and sensitive to differences in power between men and women.

All too often, silence between men and women about sexual matters results in their failing to use simple prevention measures, and silence about partners outside a relationship can result in a failure of protection.

Women bear an increasing burden of both HIV infection and care. Many women discover their HIV status when they are pregnant, yet their male partners remain untested. Some of these women remain silent, fearing violence from their partner or the ostracism of their community. This enforced silence cuts off opportunities for their own care and support, as well as the capacity to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their child.

Communities need men to care about the response to HIV/AIDS. Positive aspects of traditionally male roles can be drawn upon, such as strength, courage, leadership and protection. At the same time, men need to counter destructive aspects of masculine stereotypes, such as recklessness and sexual violence.

The World AIDS Campaign challenges men to take better care of themselves. Men often behave in ways that put their own lives at risk, for example through unprotected sex with women or men, or using unsterilized drug injecting equipment. Men need particular support to care for themselves when they are placed in difficult situations away from families - for example in work migration, or in armies and prisons.

The world has a global target, established through the United Nations, of reducing HIV infection rates among young people by 25% before 2005 in the most affected countries, and globally by 2010.

To make this target a reality, the fight against AIDS must be embraced in every community, in every country, in every continent. Turning back the epidemic requires a sustained social mobilisation prepared to defeat stigma and embrace bold action on both prevention and care. It needs political leadership, social and economic planning, community organisation and personal behaviour change. These are the tasks in which men really can make a difference.





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