Director-General holds Information Meeting for Permanent Delegates on UNESCO’s efforts to respond to HIV and AIDS

Director-General holds Information Meeting for Permanent Delegates on UNESCO’s efforts to respond to HIV and AIDS
  • © UNESCO/M. Ravassard

On Friday 7 September 2007, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, held an Information Meeting for Permanent Delegates on UNESCO’s efforts to respond to HIV and AIDS.

Describing AIDS as “one of the defining issues of our time,” the Director-General began by highlighting the scale of the epidemic. “Since 1981, 25 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses and 65 million have been infected with HIV worldwide. In 2006 alone, 4.3 million new infections were recorded, alongside 2.9 million AIDS-related deaths – more than in any previous year.” Mr Matsuura pointed out in particular the alarming rise in HIV infections along women and girls, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the high incidence of new HIV infections among young people.

The Director-General argued that it was in the context of stemming the tide of HIV infection that UNESCO was giving such importance to prevention through education. While recognizing that expanding access to treatment was vital, and acknowledging the great progress that was being in this area, Mr Matsuura urged that “we must not forget that for every person who began antiretroviral therapy in 2006, six others became infected with HIV. Unless this trend is reversed, and we manage to dramatically accelerate prevention, global efforts to expand access to HIV treatment will falter […]. Put another way, if HIV prevention were brought to scale, half of the infections projected to occur by 2015 could be averted. In sub-Sahara African alone, 52 percent of projected infections could be prevented. For all of these reasons, prevention stands as the cornerstone of UNESCO’s response to the epidemic.”

Mr Matsuura outlined UNESCO’s work since 2001 to promote prevention through education, pointing to the launch in 2004 of the Global Initiative on Education and HIV & AIDS (EDUCAIDS) as a vital contribution towards intensifying prevention efforts. Designed to provide support for the implementation of comprehensive national education sector responses to the epidemic, EDUCAIDS is now operational in more than 30 countries, with this number expected to increase significantly in next biennium.

The Director-General underscored that UNESCO approaches prevention in a holistic way, which includes consideration of treatment, care and support. This comprehensive approach can be seen in the newly revised UNESCO Strategy for Responding to HIV and AIDS, which gives priority to achieving the UN goal of providing universal access to prevention programmes, treatment, care and support by 2010.

Mr Matsuura went on to explain the institutional framework within which UNESCO’s work on HIV and AIDS is carried out. He drew particular attention to the UNAIDS Unified Budget and Workplan (UBW), as both a vital source of funding, contributing US$10.6 million in the next biennium, and as an important mechanism for harmonizing action among UNAIDS Cosponsors and the UNAIDS Secretariat. He also drew attention to the important extrabugetary support to UNESCO’s work in this area from the Japanese, Spanish and Italian Funds-in-Trust and the OPEC Fund. This is enabling UNESCO to strengthen its capacity in HIV and AIDS, especially at the field level. In this regard, the Director-General announced the creation of four new regional AIDS advisor posts “as a tangible demonstration of UNESCO’s commitment to regional and country-level impact.”

The Director-General also underscored the importance of partnership, both on the ground and globally, emphasizing his commitment to greater coordination and “delivering as one”. “Successful responses to HIV and AIDS will only come about when all stakeholders are working together towards the common goal of turning the tide against AIDS,” he stated. The Director-General highlighted here the important role of the UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team on Education (IATT) as an important mechanism for improving coordinated action.

Mr Matsuura summed up by saying that UNESCO was continuing to make important progress in the area of HIV and AIDS: “We are mobilizing more resources, enhancing capacity, and moving forward in close and coordinated fashion with key partners – all with the aim of strengthening the impact of actions at the country level, and as a complement to our wider collective effort to achieve Education for All.”

In his opening address, Mr Matsuura also announced the appointment of Mr Nicholas Burnett to the post of Assistant Director-General for Education. Mr Burnett will take up his responsibilities on 27 September 2007.

Following the Director-General’s opening remarks, Mr Mark Richmond, the UNESCO Global Coordinator for HIV and AIDS and Director of the Division for the Coordination of UN Priorities in Education, provided a programmatic overview of UNESCO’s efforts in HIV and AIDS across all of its Sectors, as well as a brief update on the work of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS Prevention Education, Ms Cristina Owen-Jones. Permanent Delegates also heard presentations by Mr Lethola Mafisa, Country Coordinator for EDUCAIDS at the Ministry of Education in Lesotho, and Mr As Sy Elhadj, Director of Communications and External Relations at the UNAIDS Secretariat in Geneva.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 113-2007
  • 08-09-2007
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