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UNAIDS reception in Kiev, Ukraine

Speech by Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess at reception in Kiev, Ukraine, October 2008. Due to illness, the speech was read by HE Ambassador Olav Berstad on behalf of The Crown Princess.

Mr Ambassador,
Dear guests,

As special representative of UNAIDS, I am honoured to be here in Kiev together with Dr Peter Piot. Although the country is hard hit by the HIV epidemic, there are networks of people and activists in Ukraine who have shown remarkable leadership in the Aids response. In my Aids related work, I have had the opportunity to meet with some of them.

At the International Aids Conference in Toronto 2 years ago, the All Ukrainian Network was honoured with the Red Ribbon award. As member of the jury, I was proud to present them with the prize for the best community based group addressing stigma and discrimination. Positive people in Ukraine play a significant role, not only within the country but also at a regional and a global level.

HIV is a global challenge – and is always part of a bigger set of issues. HIV has it’s own face in every country – reflecting local vulnerabilities. We need to address how these vulnerabilities can be reduced. Leaders at all levels must speak up and address sensitive aspects. In Norway we experience growth in HIV transmission among men having sex with men. We still face severe stigma. Social exclusion is a major problem. Someone said to me: “I can live with the virus, but my social life is dead”.

I know that stigma is a challenge in Ukraine as well. I understand that positive people struggle to get access to services and to be fully included in school, work and society. We will not be able to succeed in reversing the epidemic if this doesn’t change.

HIV can be controlled and defeated. We know a lot about what works. Still more research, funding and services are required. In each country we need a higher level of committed political leadership and broader partnerships. But most important: Positive people and their networks need to be at the core of leadership.

At this reception, people and partners who play different but crucial roles in Ukraine’s AIDS response are gathered. Tomorrow I look forward to meeting students at the University. I see the growth of youth leadership as a major encouragement. They are impatient and creative. They should be listened to carefully.

I’d like to propose a toast to Ukraine, to the United Nations – and to our joint Aids response.

Thank you.


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