Address by Wen Jiabao at the AIDS Plus Millennium Development Goals
Executive Director Michel Sidibé,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you in this discussion during the UN High-
level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). I believe that the international community has the need to jointly study the long-
term and strategic issues concerning human survival and development, but more importantly, it has the responsibility to face up to the hardships facing mankind and save the lives of those suffering from painful diseases.
HIV/AIDS poses a challenge to the entire humanity. Since the report of the first cases in 1981, it has claimed 25 million lives. At the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, world leaders set the goal of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. It was a decision imbued with compassion and it brought hope to the regions long vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS threat and the tens of thousands of people living with the disease. Today, ten years later, we are heartened to see that through concerted efforts of the international community, significant progress has been made in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Many more HIV carriers have received treatment and financial support and new cases of infections and deaths are on the decline. However, there are still over 30 million HIV-
infected persons and AIDS patients around the world, of whom more than 20 million live in sub-
Saharan Africa. Racked with severe pains, they are struggling on the verge of death and they yearn for our help and rescue. We cannot turn a deaf ear to the call of life, and we must not be slow in reaching out. We should redouble our effort to advance the global campaign against HIV/AIDS and ensure that the related MDG be met on schedule.
Since becoming China's Premier in 2003, I have visited people affected by HIV/AIDS in urban communities, rural areas and hospitals every year. I have invited children orphaned or infected by HIV/AIDS to my office in the Zhongnanhai compound as my guests. Each time I visit a groaning AIDS patient or an elderly person or child whose loved ones were killed by the disease, each time I walk into their homes and hold their hands in mine, I feel deep in my heart a strong sense of responsibility, a belief that the government needs to do more on their behalf.
What struck me most in my interactions with AIDS patients is that they are subjected to not only physical pains caused by the disease, but also tremendous psychological pressure coming from society. Ignorance and discrimination can be more harmful than the disease itself. In China's central province of Henan, there is a Wenlou village in Shangcai county which is heavily affected by AIDS. The villagers told me that they grew high quality grains and vegetables but could not get them sold, because no one dared to buy their products. When they went to cities to look for jobs, they would face discrimination and their children would have a hard time getting to school. I met Nannan, a 16-year-
old girl orphaned and infected by HIV/AIDS through mother-to-
child transmission. She said to me, "The saddest thing for me is that none of my classmates wants to be with me." These words filled my heart with sorrow. Come to think of this: how would we feel if we were in their position? That is why I believe that better AIDS education, a correct attitude on the disease and less discrimination are as important as treatment and prevention. And I fully agree with what Uganda advocates, "We are fighting AIDS, not AIDS patients".
Love helps ease the pain of AIDS sufferers. Although no permanent cure for AIDS has been found yet, there is no lack of love in our world. Each individual is an inexhaustible source of love, and with a compassionate heart, we can all contribute our share of love to AIDS patients. In fact, they do not expect much from others. All they want is a simple gesture of kindness and love. It may be a hug, a few minutes' chat, or even just a handshake or a smile. Small as it is, such a gesture will bring a gleam of hope to their shattered lives. Caring for others also brings happiness to oneself. Today, many Chinese have joined the AIDS volunteer group to care for and help AIDS patients. Gui Xi'en, a professor from Wuhan University who is in his 70s and also a friend of mine, is one of them. For several decades, he has taken money out of his own pocket to help AIDS patients and invited them to live in his own home. In my view, true care for AIDS patients is not about making lengthy speeches at the imposing forums of big cities. It is about real and concrete action for each and every affected family and individual. We should reach out to AIDS patients, holding their hands and listening to their stories, and make earnest efforts to address their practical difficulties. I hope that every member of society will take an interest in this issue and extend love to AIDS sufferers.
The Chinese government attaches great importance to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. We have mounted a campaign against HIV/AIDS since the first HIV infection in China was found in 1985. It has been a tough and protracted battle, yet we have never shown fear or backed down. We set up the Committee for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control in 2004, and put in place a government-
led working mechanism with public participation. Over the years, we have formulated the Mid- and Long-
term Program on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control and two five-
year action plans, and we promulgated the HIV/AIDS prevention and control regulations in 2006. Together, they provide a strong legal and policy guarantee for our efforts on this front. We are also channeling more fiscal resources into this campaign. Funds allocated by the central government have jumped from RMB100 million yuan in 2001 to RMB1.6 billion yuan this year, and matching funds from local governments have also been increasing year by year. We have introduced the "Four Free and One Care" policy nationwide, which includes free antiretroviral drugs to all rural patients and patients from urban low-income families, free voluntary testing and consulting, free prevention services on mother-to-
child transmission, free schooling for children orphaned by AIDS as well as care for AIDS patients and their families through medical treatment and financial support. We have strengthened education programs to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and encourage the public to adopt a correct attitude on HIV/AIDS and AIDS patients, do away with discrimination and lead a healthy way of life. We have fought fiercely against illegal blood collection and supply, and improved the infrastructure and management of blood stations. We have strengthened disease surveillance and testing, and raised the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS screening tests. We have actively introduced behavioral intervention measures to block the primary channels for HIV/AIDS transmission such as drug use, and prevent and control its transmission and spread. We have followed a two-
pronged approach that uses both medical services and community services, and both social assistance and family care to help AIDS patients in receiving antiretroviral treatment, create conditions for them to lead a normal life like others, take good care of those who lost entire families to AIDS and protect their rights and interests.
Thanks to these efforts, the fast spread of HIV/AIDS in China has been basically brought under control. The mortality rate has been
significantly lowered and the livelihood of infected persons and patients has markedly improved. We are confident that we will meet the MDG on HIV/AIDS by 2015.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To fight against HIV/AIDS is the common responsibility of mankind. There are too many sufferings in this world, and they make it all the more necessary for us to get united to protect ourselves. The international community needs to foster a spirit of solidarity and mutual assistance and intensify cooperation on HIV/AIDS prevention and control.
Developed countries should honor in good faith their commitments and provide necessary financial and technical assistance to developing countries.
Developing countries should actively draw upon successful international practices and keep exploring ways of HIV/AIDS prevention and control that fit their national conditions.
The World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other international institutions should step up coordination, mobilize resources from multiple sources and make good use of their professional expertise to help developing countries, sub-
Saharan African countries in particular, improve HIV/AIDS prevention and control.
The international community should intensify cooperation on HIV/AIDS-
related scientific research, advance the research and development of HIV vaccines and antiretroviral drugs, and further improve the treatment plans.
Multinational medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies must assume their social responsibilities, make real efforts to bring down the cost of HIV/AIDS treatment and drugs, and appropriately ease the intellectual property requirements on related drugs and medical technologies. This will help patients throughout the world gain access to affordable, convenient and effective treatment.
China has been actively involved in the international cooperation on HIV/AIDS prevention and control. We have made donations to the Global Fund for many years in a row, trained HIV/AIDS medical staff for African countries, and carried out joint HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment projects with Greater Mekong Sub-
region countries and ASEAN members. China will donate US$14 million to the Global Fund in the next three years. We will remain deeply engaged in the international cooperation, and play our part for the attainment of the MDG on HIV/AIDS on schedule.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Here, I cannot help thinking of the kids that I invited to Zhongnanhai three years ago. Among them was a 12-year-old boy from Fuyang city of Anhui province. He lost both parents to AIDS, and his aged grandmother was the only person he could turn to in the family. When I asked him what he wanted to say to me, he said, "I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I want to build a world that no longer has HIV/AIDS, a world where no kid will lose his parents to AIDS." Those were but simple words from an innocent child, yet they spoke to the best of humanity. They were the call of life, the call of conscience and the call of hope. Human history is filled with success stories in combating diseases. "Every disaster that befalls mankind is made up for by the advance of history." Over the centuries, we have defeated many fatal diseases, such as small pox and plague. Those experiences have given us the wisdom and confidence for survival and made us hold life ever dearer to our hearts. I am convinced that the "Red Ribbon" will bind our hearts closely together, and there will come a day when we will defeat HIV/AIDS and see on the faces of unfortunate victims smiles of hope, not tears of despair. Let us work even harder for the early arrival of that day.