Speech at the National Event on World AIDS Day

Nov 29, 2006

Speaker: Mr. John Hendra, United Nations Resident Coordinator,  
Date:       29th November 2006
Event:      World AIDS Day Event
Venue:     Hanoi

Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues and Friends,
 I am very, very pleased to be with you this evening, at this important event. This is my first World AIDS Day in Viet Nam, and I know that the Party, Government, National Assembly, people living with HIV and their families, and the whole of Vietnamese society are working together at this time, to mark World AIDS Day 2006.  
 As you know, World AIDS Day was established more than a decade ago, as a day of commitment and solidarity. All over the world, today we remember those who have died of AIDS and their families, and to re-commit ourselves together to preventing HIV, and to fighting stigma and discrimination wherever it exists.  
 As you may be aware, the United Nations has just released the new global figures on HIV.  In short, more than 39.5 million people are infected with HIV, and 4.3 million became newly infected this year. In Viet Nam also, the situation is serious. The Ministry of Health estimates that over 280,000 were living with HIV in 2005. And 14,000 people died of AIDS in Viet Nam in 2005 alone. This means thousands of Vietnamese families are affected by HIV, and many thousands are grieving for their family members and loved ones.  
 For this reason, the World AIDS Day slogan for 2006 is “Keep the Promise.” This is a message for the leadership, for all sectors, and for each one of us. The Government of Viet Nam has signed the UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV, in which they committed to providing everyone with the information and resources to prevent themselves from becoming infected. This includes young people, migrant workers, drug users and sex workers, men who have sex with men, single people and married couples – in fact, all of us. And we also need to Keep the Promise – to learn about HIV and to protect ourselves and our families, including talking to our children about these issues.  
 We know that Viet Nam has achieved much in expanding the response to HIV. Prevention programmes have been expanded, and more people are receiving treatment. Policies and directives have been strengthened, and the new HIV/AIDS Law was passed this summer, which strengthens the rights and responsibilities of people living with HIV.
 But we also know that there are serious problems, which need further commitment, and effort together to “Keep the Promise”. In particular, we know that many people living with HIV continue to suffer from stigma and discrimination. For example, children infected or affected by HIV often have problems attending their local schools. In my few months in your impressive country, I have come to learn that solidarity, compassion and social mobilization are values that underpin Vietnamese society. I hope that 2007 will truly see these values applied to all Vietnamese, including those infected or affected by HIV.  
 As the United Nations, our work is ultimately about people, and the future of Viet Nam. The recent APEC meeting has shown the world the achievements of Viet Nam in the past 20 years. And we know that in HIV programmes too, a lot is being achieved. But still more needs to be done, especially to slow the epidemic and to tackle stigma and discrimination. As the United Nations, we are proud of our partnership with the government and people of Viet Nam in this very important work. Tonight we stand together with you to support your efforts in preventing HIV and fighting stigma and discrimination – on World AIDS Day, and on every single day of the year.  
Thank you and chuc suc khoe