The Head of UNAIDS, Mr Michel Sidibé and Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), visited New Zealand in early March to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.
During their three-day visit Clark and Sidibé called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the New Zealand Aids Foundation, and a number of government and non-government agencies to discuss the on-going effort to mitigate the spread of HIV/AIDS on a global scale.
Michel Sidibé said UNAIDS deliberately set ambitious targets to combat the spread of HIV, with its ultimate aims of “Zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination.”
He added: “While the ‘zeros’ might not be achieved by everyone everywhere, the target remains a good one, and New Zealand could well be the first nation to show that a zero result is possible.”
The UNDP and UNAIDS also champion the reform of punitive laws which stigmatise HIV, and advocate for the removal of travel restrictions for people living with HIV.
Placing HIV in the contexts of gender, sexuality and discrimination, both Helen Clark and Michel Sidibé said taking action to deal with HIV also presents opportunities to address wider issues including human rights, discrimination and inequality and the position of women in society in general.
Amanda Ellis, Deputy Secretary International Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said the two leaders exemplified a “people-centred and coordinated approach”, clearly demonstrating the benefits of an integrated, holistic response to combating the global issue of HIV/AIDS.
On their three-day visit Helen Clark and Michel Sidibé also spoke to the Parliamentarians for Population and Development group at the Beehive, met with the Prime Minister and Ministers, and opened a new office for Positive Women Inc, a support organisation for women and families living with HIV and AIDS.