Policy Matter

Health Minister addresses UNGA High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

Health-Minister-addresses-HIV

India has said that over 80%of the drugs used globally to combat the deadly AIDS are supplied by Indian pharmaceutical firms and the low-cost generic medicines have helped scale up access to HIV treatment across developing countries.

Addressing the high-level General Assembly meeting on HIV/AIDS, Minister for Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda said that India had faced the “spectre of disastrous consequences” on account of AIDS epidemic 15 years back but was able to manage the challenge effectively.Health-Minister-addresses-HIV

The country today is significantly contributing in the global fight against AIDS as more than 80% of the antiretroviral drugs used globally are supplied by the Indian pharmaceutical industry, he said.

The UN General Assembly adopted a new political declaration that emphasised on the critical importance of affordable medicines to combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

The Minister also underlined that the international community cannot afford a rebound of the AIDS epidemic and that developed countries should do more and enhance their commitments to fight theworldwide scourge.

“Targeted interventions based on close collaboration with and empowerment of communities and civil society with appropriate funding from the government have helped deliver key life saving services to the affected population,” Nadda said in his address to the 193-member Assembly here yesterday.

Deaths due to AIDS in India have been reduced by nearly 55% since 2007, while new HIV infections saw a reduction by 66% since 2000.

Around a million people affected by AIDS are currently on antiretroviral therapy. “These remarkable successes would not have been possible without access to affordable medicines. The low cost generic medicines produced by the Indian pharmaceutical industry have been instrumental in scaling up access to HIV treatment not only in India but in other parts of the world, especially in the developing countries most affected by this scourge,” Nadda said.

He added that the “accessibility and affordability” of drugs has helped save millions of lives around the world.

India’s emphasis on providing low-cost generic medicines to combat HIV/AIDS was echoed in the UNGA declaration, which recognises the “critical importance of affordable medicines, including generics, in scaling up access to affordable HIV treatment”.

Outlining ways in which the international community can act together over the next five years to fight HIV/AIDS, Nadda stressed on need to ensure access to affordable medicines and commodity security. He said India is committed to maintain the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities.

“We reiterated this commitment last year during the Third India-Africa Summit, responding to call from our brothers and sisters in Africa,” he said.

The declaration also recognised that protection and enforcement measures for intellectual property rights should be TRIPS compliant and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner that supports the right of Member States to protect public health and promote access to medicines for all.

Nadda said India is proud of being one of the leading partners in the global fight against AIDS epidemic and is collaborating actively with a range of partner countries and other stakeholders including the UNAIDS,the joint UN programme on HIV/AIDS.

At the high-level meeting on ending AIDS, Member States adopted the new political declaration that includes a set of time-bound targets to fast-track the pace of progress towards combating the worldwide scourge of HIV and AIDS over the next five years and end the epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.

“AIDS is far from over,” UN Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moonemphasisedat the opening of the meeting.

“Over the next five years, we have a window of opportunity to radically change the trajectory of the epidemic and put an end to AIDS forever. Despite remarkable progress, if we do not act, there is a danger the epidemic will rebound in low- and middle-income countries,” he added.

Stressing on the need to increase investments, Nadda said the “role of international assistance and cooperation cannot be underestimated”.

“This is the time for developed countries to do more, not less, and enhance their commitments. We cannot afford to give the epidemic a chance to rebound,” Nadda said.

Another crucial aspect in combating the AIDS crisis is global solidarity, he said adding that nations are together in the fight to end the AIDS epidemic.

“All forms of cooperation including North-South, South- South cooperation, multilateral and bilateral cooperation; and collaboration between governments, private sector and civil society must be strengthened,” he said.

“The multi-sectoral response to AIDS should not be sacrificed in favour of a narrow bio-medical approach. The only way we can decisively finish the epidemic is by being united in our efforts,” he said.

He further said that the international community must adopt the fast-track targets proposed by UNAIDS, adding that reaching 90%of all people in need with HIV treatment and prevention must be the primary goal of nations.

“Prevention must not be forgotten, even as we provide treatment for all people living with HIV. This is a time when we must maximize the impact of all known prevention and treatment efforts. HIV service delivery can become a model for expanding health coverage to all aspects of health,” he said.

Nadda pointed out that creating an inclusive society that values every human life is important and success of the international community in targeted interventions will come from the belief in restoring the respect and dignity of individuals.

“At risk and vulnerable populations, particularly women and girls need protection from sexual abuse, exploitation and violence. Societal change is slow, but we must not give up on the principal value that all men and women are created equal,” he said, adding that the world has to take bold decisions based on science and bury narrow divisions.

The high-level meeting brings together heads of State and Government, ministers, people living with HIV, representatives from civil society and international organisations, the private sector, scientists and researchers to build on the commitments made in the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS and to set the world on course to end the epidemic by 2030 within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Nadda said the number of HIV-affected people living on antiretroviral therapy has increased substantially and the number of annual AIDS-related deaths has gone down considerably.

“These remarkable successes have demonstrated that the target of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 is realistic. Sustained political commitment and action is necessary to address the scale of challenge that still lies ahead,” he said.

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