UNODC marks World AIDS Day

1 December 2008 - Today is World AIDS Day. UNODC is involved in a range of events across the world to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS and mobilize support for decisive action to tackle the problem. The activities that are taking place include:


World AIDS Day is being marked in 6 Afghan provinces, and the Ministry of Public Health is taking the lead. There will be roundtable discussions on HIV and AIDS on several TV networks, and radio and TV stations will broadcast awareness-raising messages throughout the day. UNODC has also produced information material to be distributed at the different events of the day.


UNODC will co-host a national conference on HIV/AIDS prevention among vulnerable groups. 100 experts will attend the conference, aiming to improve and increase HIV prevention efforts in the country.


UNODC is working with UNAIDS, the UN Programme on HIV and AIDS, to mark World AIDS Day in Bangladesh. Throughout the various events, UNODC will focus on HIV as it relates to female drug users.


To mark the conclusion of a national campaign on HIV and drug use prevention in schools, UNODC, with other campaign partners, will announce the winner of a cartoon competition for students. Moreover, UNODC will facilitate a "Learning Day on HIV" alongside other UN agencies.


UNODC in China is participating in the big World AIDS Day event that the UN is arranging with the Chinese Red Cross and the State Council AIDS Working Committee Organization. The activities will take place in the two iconic Olympic buildings, the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube. Celebrities, high level officials and people living with HIV will contribute to the event.


In Egypt, there will be an awareness-raising event for youth. It will include activities such as art workshops, an "I can stop AIDS" awareness tunnel, wish tree, tug of war, mural wall, and  a concert by the band Iskenderella. UNODC will also organize a forum for health administrators to discuss access to care and treatment for people living with HIV


The UNAIDS family in India, including UNODC, will support the governmental National AIDS Control Organization in organizing a six-day Youth Parliament at Delhi. Some 1,000 youth delegates from various parts of India are expected to participate in this parliament. Delegates will be trained and sensitized to HIV and AIDS issues, culminating in a mock Youth Parliament session on the last day.


The focus is on HIV among people in prison settings, and today, UNODC will meet with prison representatives to strengthen cooperation and request more attention to HIV and AIDS in Kazakh prisons. Moreover, UNODC in the country held a poster competition for World AIDS Day. The winner will be announced at an event today.


UNODC will help organize an all-night vigil where more than 5,000 young people will receive prevention messages on HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Free voluntary counselling and testing, condoms and blood donation services will be available, in addition to lots of games and music.


There will be a march in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, to draw attention to the human rights of people affected by HIV and AIDS. In collaboration with the UN Development Programme, UNODC will also run entertainment and awareness-raising events in three prisons.


In Latvia, UNODC is supporting a procession with torches through the capital city Riga today. Moreover, UNODC will participate in a round table discussion and seminar on "Africa and AIDS"


UNODC is hosting a national conference in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, entitled "Intensifying HIV prevention among injecting drug users and in prisons: towards universal access", on the 1-2 of December. Policy makers, experts and non-governmental organizations will attend the conference. Moreover, UNODC will award one journalist whose article was selected as the best in the field of HIV/AIDS, drugs and prisons.


UNODC will participate in a televised panel discussion on "HIV and AIDS vs Human Rights". Moreover, UNODC will support HIV-related presentations in the main prison of Cadeia Central. These events will be linked with the 'graduation' ceremony of recently trained prison peer educators.


UNODC Pakistan is leading a National HIV Prevention Campaign on the FM100 radio station. This station is popular with youth, in both urban and rural areas. HIV prevention messages will be regularly broadcast, in addition to talk shows involving policy makers, UN experts, families, young people living with HIV, and others.


In Swaziland, the focus will be on HIV and AIDS in prisons. UNODC will support events organized by the country's Correctional Services, which will organize regional soccer, netball and volleyball games, integrated with awareness-raising efforts.


In close collaboration with The Department of Corrective institutions of the Ministry of Justice, UNODC organized various events that combined sports and artistic competitions with awareness-raising about HIV and AIDS last week.


Today, Turkmenistan's national newspaper is publishing an article about UNODC's work in HIV prevention amongst drug users and prisoners. Moreover, UNODC is participating in a meeting of senior officials to discuss possible changes in national legislation to eliminate access barriers to HIV-related services.

Viet Nam

In Viet Nam, the Government has declared a "month of action on HIV" and UNODC is participating in numerous events. For example, two training workshops for police officers on law enforcement and harm reduction; a high-level Government meeting on people living with HIV; a national parade; and a television show on the national response to HIV.


UNODC, in partnership with Zambia Prison Service, will launch a policy document and strategic plan on HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis in Zambian prisons. Moreover, there will be drama performances on HIV and AIDS in five prisons.


UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa's message on World AIDS Day:

"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 60th 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".