UNODC Executive Director Statement on World Aids Day - 1 December 2016

Action against HIV/AIDS must not fall through the cracks of the overall work being carried out on the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. In communities and societies everywhere, people continue to confront this deadly disease's many challenges. Globally, 1.6 million injecting drug users are infected with HIV, while 6 million live with hepatitis C.  

Some 30 million people moving through the world's prison's face an infection risk up to ten times greater than those outside the prison walls. People in prisons should have the same standards of health care available in the community. We must also deliver a clear message that no prison wall is high enough or wide enough to prevent HIV moving between prisons and society.

Most worryingly, new HIV infections have not decreased in recent years and are increasing among certain groups including people who inject drugs. Worldwide, last year, 150,000 people who inject drugs were infected with HIV. This is 150,000 too many.

If prevention efforts are not to be viewed as a dismal failure, we must work much harder to educate, to communicate, to convince. Our overriding aim must be to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that deeply harms the work on HIV prevention and treatment.

No one, whether prisoners or other groups, should be shamed into silence. People should also be given access to clean syringes and needles, opioid substitution therapy, HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy. But globally the availability, coverage and quality of these HIV services is too low to prevent HIV and hepatitis C.

Countries, in April, committed themselves at the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem (UNGASS) to end AIDS by 2030 and to combat viral hepatitis among people who use or inject drugs. A political declaration on ending AIDS was agreed by countries at a UN High-Level meeting this year.

Together these agreements provide an  opportunity to achieve specific targets set for the global AIDS response and to marshal the necessary resources. UNODC is helping by delivering evidence and human rights based and gender responsive HIV services and building bridges between drug control, police, prison administration, health, justice, and civil society.  

On World AIDS Day we need to acknowledge that ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 is achievable; but  it needs a fast track response. We all have to start sprinting towards these targets now. The race is on.

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