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Press Centre (12/2011)


1 December, Ankara (UN Information Centre) - International community has a real chance of reaching the goal of getting to zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero new deaths from HIV/AIDS, according to United Nations Resident Coordinator in Ankara Shahid Najam.

"Thirty years ago, AIDS was terrifying, deadly and spreading fast. Today, we have a chance to end this epidemic once and for all. The story of how we got here was written by governments, the medical community, the private sector and, above all, the activists who struggled against AIDS in their lives and around the world", Mr. Najam said in a message released to mark the 1 December World AIDS Day. 

Mr. Najam emphasized that looking back, there is much humanity could have done differently and looking ahead, there is a lot international community can do to build on the successes achieved during the last three decades. 

Mr. Najam emphasized that cooperation with national and international partners has yielded very positive results. "As we are about to leave behind three decades of AIDS, we are finally in a position to say that we can win the fight against the epidemic" he said.

However he warned that people still do not know how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remains a reality for many people living with HIV. "World AIDS Day is important as it reminds the public and Governments that HIV has not gone away, there is still a vital need to increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education", Mr. Najam said.

Turkey, with the third largest population in Europe and Central Asia, has one of the lowest HIV prevalence in the region, but the number of newly infected is increasing, Mr. Najam said.

Mr. Najam reiterated that there are still serious risk factors for Turkey regarding HIV/AIDS mainly because it is located between high HIV epidemic countries and has significant human exchanges with high-epidemic countries in the region.

Since 2001, a UN HIV/AIDS Joint Programme is functional in Turkey that has been working with the National AIDS Commission, Ministry of Health, Civil Society, Universities and Media.

According to Mr. Najam, UN's target for the next biennium is to expand its partnership with the Turkish government in HIV/AIDS prevention, monitoring and evaluation and better HIV/AIDS surveillance in order to decrease the number of new cases.

In his message, Mr. Najam pointed out if the international community is to relegate AIDS to the history books, bold steps should be taken, which means facing sensitive issues, including men who have sex with men, drug users and the sex trade.

Drawing attention to the "The Global HIV/AIDS response - Epidemic update and health sector progress towards universal access: progress report 2011", jointly released today by WHO (World Health Organization), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Mr. Najam emphasized that while the HIV epidemic appears to be stabilizing and declining in other regions - including sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and South and South-East Asia - it continues to grow at an alarming and accelerating pace in Europe.

"The estimated number of people dying from AIDS-related causes in eastern Europe and central Asia increased more than 11-fold between 2001 and 2010, from 7800 to 90 000. AIDS-related deaths continue to rise in these countries, in contrast to most other regions" Mr. Najam said, referring to the report which is based on the data provided member countries, including Turkey. 

Reminding that this year's theme of the World AIDS Day is "Be An Activist - Make it happen", "The road before us is clear and we can accelerate ahead with smart investments, capitalizing on scientific advancements and evidence and respecting human rights. It is why UN urges the world leaders to fully fund the AIDS response", Mr. Najam said.

He concluded his message by urging all people, regardless of their age, gender or position to contribute individually and collectively to ending the HIV epidemic.

UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org