Swiss NGOs present ideas to tackle Aids epidemic

The UN special session on HIV/Aids aims to tackle the epidemic at the highest political level Keystone Archive

Swiss non-governmental organisations are preparing for a United Nations special session on HIV/Aids, which is taking place in New York later this month. They intend to highlight Swiss efforts to address the Aids situation at home.

This content was published on June 14, 2001 - 19:41

Mark Bächer, press officer for the Swiss Aids Federation, said the effective cooperation between the Swiss government and NGOs could serve as a role model for other countries.

"We will bring this example to the UN assembly and encourage NGOs to collaborate with local government," he said.

Nearly 22 million people have died of Aids since the 1980s and some 36 million people are currently infected with the HIV virus. Faced with this global epidemic, the United Nations is bringing together governments, Aids activists and experts and private sector partners to discuss what steps are needed to tackle the problem worldwide.

"The purpose of this special session is to increase leadership commitment to the fight against Aids," said Dominique De Santis, press officer for UNAIDS in Geneva. "It's the first ever special session focusing on a single disease and it's coming at a time when Aids has become more than just a health issue. It's turned into a real global crisis."

Bächer said one of the biggest problems was that some countries still refused to acknowledge HIV and Aids.

"Industrialised countries have to raise consciousness in the governments and leaders of these countries," he said. "It is important to have an infrastructure for the public health sector. It is not enough to provide drugs for affected people. You also have to provide support."

At the special session, governments are expected to agree on a Declaration of Commitment, which will outline priority areas where stronger action must be taken.

Setting targets to fight Aids, especially reducing infections among young people, will require the commitment of resources. The UN estimates that up to $10 billion a year are needed to effectively fight Aids at both the preventative and care level.

"Leadership commitment doesn't come overnight," said De Santis. "It didn't really exist in the early stages of the epidemic and has been pretty slow in coming but now we feel we've reached a stage where leaders are addressing the epidemic to a greater degree."

The UN special session runs from June 25-27. The official Swiss delegation will be led by the interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss.

by Vincent Landon

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