Opening of Conference for persons living with HIV/AIDS
Ladies and gentlemen,
señoras y señores
It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today.
First of all I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy with those affected by Hurricane Felix and the recent floods. The fact that this conference is still taking place demonstrates a strong commitment to combating HIV/Aids.
Many people from the region will be present in Managua this week. They will include people in high rank positions and public officials. I still believe that you are the most important of all those attending. Representatives of the communities affected by and living with HIV/Aids, along with civil society and NGOs, need to be at the centre of the response.
Your willingness to be at the forefront as active participants provides hope in the battle against the virus and against discrimination. Thank you for including me in this event and for sharing your experiences with me. I bring in return, on this occation, warm regards from the Positive community in Norway. Through my HiV/AIDS engagement at home, I learn that some challenges are exactly the same, regardless culture and geography.
This region is not attracting the biggest headlines in the global focus on AIDS. Moreover, a recent evaluation of the San Salvador Declaration found that, in many areas, the response envisaged two years ago has not been realised.
That is why Central America still needs a strong commitment, and that is why your presence at CONCASIDA is crucial. But to improve the global response to Hiv/AIDS, we need all powers to pull in the same direction: We need the United Nations, politicians, scientists, religious leaders, civil society as well as public and private sectors. Because as Dr Peter Piot stated at CONCASIDA in 2005: When we are united, people win. When we are divided, the virus wins.
I have noted the way this region adopts a human rights approach when identifying and acting on the drivers of vulnerability and infection. The same approach is used in the efforts to ensure equal access to treatment and support.
In the context of the Aids response, promoting human rights means a commitment to equity, solidarity and respect. It means addressing poverty, social and economic inequality, and fighting power structures that render people vulnerable. Many of these vulnerabilities are related to gender and sexual behaviour.
The involvement of men is instrumental to meet these challenges. Today, men all over the world, including here in Nicaragua, have formed organisations to combat violence and destructive gender roles. We need both women and men, girls and boys to address the issue of gender equality - and to develop new principles for living together.
The pandemic has revealed how devastating stigma and discrimination can be, how this inhibits the lives of individuals and impede the response to the crisis. This is unfortunately the case whether we discuss HIV in Nicaragua, Norway or in the southern part of Africa. We cannot accept this.
When dealing with big and complex issues like Hiv/AIDS we must not forget that the response is also about enabling people to live dignified lives even if suffering from a chronic disease. If we fail to regard and treat each other with dignity, our own dignity is seriously threatened.
I wish you all the best for the conference and hope the discussions will be fruitful.