Ban calls on U.N. Member States for bigger push towards AIDS-free world

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Member States at a U.N. General Assembly meeting on Monday to intensify efforts to eradicate AIDS worldwide.

"We must move from treating millions with disease to giving billions the opportunity to live healthy lives," Ban said. "The HIV response can help to build stronger, integrated health care systems that respond to broad needs across society."

To date, the rate of HIV infection has been reversed in more than 56 countries and HIV infections have declined by 20 percent since 2001. Treatment also now reaches more than fifty percent of all people who need it in developing countries.

"Now we have to expand antiretroviral therapy," Ban said. "This is a human rights imperative and a public health necessity. Treatment prevents sickness, saves lives and eases the economic hardship that can cripple whole communities. We have brought the cost of many medicines down dramatically. We must continue to push hard for greater results."

Ban explained the international discrimination which exists against those that are HIV-positive. Women and girls are at the highest risk of infection and only one-third of children who need treatment receive it.

"Many governments and community leaders still have laws and policies that criminalize key populations and force them underground," Ban said. "This is discriminatory and counterproductive. It drives people away from information, testing, treatment, care and support services. I have consistently said that human rights are universal and must be universally respected."

Ban called for an increase in funding for programs that target key populations, such as sex workers and those who use drugs. Ban also noted, however, that the solution goes beyond money.

"This problem cannot be solved with more money," Ban said. "We all have to step up with courage and integrity to protect vulnerable members of our human family."