Message of UNODC's Executive Director
Antonio Maria Costa

On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2008, 1 December 2008.

"Let us invest in  our young people".

Today, we mark the 20th anniversary of the World AIDS Day. Long ago, we pledged to "keep the promise" but we have not.  AIDS is still with us. Among the estimated 16 million people injecting drugs worldwide, one in five will likely contract HIV.

Is "AIDS fatigue" setting in as other global problems compete for attention? United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has declared that the challenge is to sustain leadership in this fight.  Without strong and committed leadership, we will fail.

It is scandalous that less than 10% of injecting drug users have access to evidence-based HIV prevention and care services. It is time to bring health back to the mainstream of drug policy. The goals are within reach. New analyses could better guide national HIV prevention programmes and treatment programmes are expanding.

As we prepare to mark the 60 th anniversary year of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we should remember that the human rights of vulnerable groups, including drug users and prisoners, are violated everyday. Instead of showing compassion we stigmatize drug users and cast them out as pariahs. No wonder many shun life-saving HIV prevention, treatment and care.

Drug-related HIV particularly afflicts young people, cutting down tomorrow's leaders in their prime.  Young people aged between 15 and 24 account for an estimated 45 per cent of new HIV infections.  .

Sharing contaminated needles is almost a sure-fire route way to HIV infection. Yet many young people still lack accurate information about how to avoid exposure to the virus.

Let us empower the youth with information.  We must start showing leadership now.

Stopping the spread of AIDS is not only a Millennium Development Goal; it is an investment in the next generation.

That is why UNODC's campaign tells young people " Think before you start. Before you shoot. Before you share".



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