World AIDS Day 2012 statement by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma
It is a sobering fact that although the Commonwealth accounts for one-third of the world’s population, two-thirds of the people living with HIV/AIDS globally are Commonwealth citizens.
Many of the countries most affected are members of the Commonwealth in sub-Saharan Africa, which remains the epicentre of the epidemic. There have been notable successes in some of the Commonwealth countries of that region, with universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services having been achieved in some instances.
But our goal is that all who need treatment should have access to it. By the end of 2011, taken globally, only just over half of all those who were eligible for treatment were actually receiving anti-retroviral therapy. Access to anti-retroviral therapy is not only critical to survival and improved quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS, but it has also been shown that strategic use of anti-retroviral therapy can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 96 per cent.
Our aspiration, of dramatically reducing AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections through greater access to such treatment, and to good quality healthcare, is expressed in this year’s World AIDS Day theme: ‘Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination, Zero AIDS related deaths’.
HIV/AIDS is not simply a public health challenge; it is also a major impediment to social and economic development, particularly in low and middle income countries which already face many other significant challenges to health and to economic and social progress.