Statement by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Cuba, Ambassador Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, under Agenda item 179: "Review of the problem of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in all its aspects." New York, 2 November 2000.
It is Cuba’s hope that the concern we are showing today about the almost 36 million people in the world living with the HIV virus, of which 24.5 million are in sub-Saharan Africa alone, will translate into the mobilization of the international community to make comprehensive efforts to fight this disease effectively. We also hope that this will mean that the will of the industrialized countries will be expressed in action and the allocation of resources.
AIDS in Africa, like hunger, is a problem of under-development. It is not a coincidence that the epidemic is spreading mainly amongst the disadvantaged poor populations lacking education and health services.
With 3.8 million new cases of HIV infections in 1999, including half a million children, with an accumulated 13.7 million dead, which is 69 times more than the number of dead in conflicts, and 7 million children orphaned, Africa needs cooperation and not censure. It requires development and not interference. It cries out for resources and not prescriptions for good governments or foreign models.
Just to treat current patients with anti-retrovirus drugs, Africa would have to spend more than $57 billion yearly and, if the therapies of the developed countries were to be applied there, it would require more than $250 billion. Today, Africa can only devote a bare $10 per capita to health care, and that, in some countries, is equivalent to one-ninth the cost of debt servicing.
In 1998, the African continent received less than $5 billion, that is 3 per cent of the world’s total, in foreign direct investment. Its current account deficit was $16 billion — more than triple that of the previous year. The debt burden rose to $350 billion, more than triple the amount of all of Africa’s exports of goods and services.
Meanwhile, official development assistance (ODA) continues to account for only 0.23 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the developed countries.
The resources required to fight AIDS in underdeveloped countries can only be provided by the developed countries, which control 86 per cent of the world’s GDP, 82 per cent of its exports and 68 per cent of investments. These resources could be provided by opulent societies, which consume billions of dollars in cosmetics, cigarettes, pet food, cars and the production of weapons.
On this subject it is high time to take action. Cuba reiterates once again its proposal to establish a collaborative project through UNAIDS, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies and funds for sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Central America to fight AIDS and other health problems to which Cuba is prepared to provide medical personnel free of charge.
Moreover, Cuba reiterates its proposal to supply free of charge all the medical personnel necessary to launch an urgent health campaign in the north of sub-Saharan Africa. This project should be supplemented by contributions from the agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations, as well as from developed countries, to provide the minimum indispensable resources, mainly drugs and medical equipment.
This effort is feasible and would not require huge resources. Cuba, despite its economic difficulties, has been making an effort on its own. At present 2,146 Cubans provide assistance in 14 countries of Central America, Africa and the Caribbean and provide care to more than 10 million people.
This cooperation is expanding. To this end, Cuba has established a Latin American School of Medical Sciences which will enrol 6,000 students. We have created a Caribbean School of Medicine and are working on the creation of medical schools with Cuban professors in two African countries and are carrying out a vaccination campaign in Haiti. We will supply all university study grants required by the Caribbean countries free of charge.
We have already graduated about 27,000 professionals and technicians from developing countries and we have trained another five thousand. We have graduated 1,165 doctors and dentists.
More than 80,000 Cuban civilian collaborators have provided services in Africa, almost 25,000 of them in the area of health care.
We are pleased to reiterate here the proposal made by our President, Fidel Castro, at the Millennium Summit, to provide 3,000 health specialists and doctors for the provision of services free of charge to sub-Saharan Africa and even to take on the task of building the infrastructure that is needed for the massive use of anti-retroviral drugs, if the industrialized countries provide the necessary drugs and resources.
With political will and effective social programmes, with the good use of resources and the creation of efficient extensive health and education systems for the entire population with an equitable distribution of wealth, a small country like Cuba, though poor and subject to embargoes, can provide an example of success in the treatment and control of AIDS.
The execution of our national programme for prevention and control of AIDS has had a positive effect on the evolution of the epidemic in our country. Taking into account the figures reported worldwide on AIDS today, we can see that Cuba can compare very favourably with the majority of countries around the world. We have virtually no cases of AIDS in children and care is guaranteed for each case reported.
Between 1986 and 31 December 1999, 2,676 seropositive people, 1,001 people suffering from AIDS and 691 deaths have been recorded. The epidemic has grown slowly and is considered to have a low transmission level. Only .03 per cent of the population between 15 and 49 years of age are infected.
All Cubans affected by HIV/AIDS benefit from extensive care and broad coverage, understanding and human solidarity, a right to confidentiality and full respect for their privacy. They do not experience discrimination. Their right to work, social security and health care are guaranteed generally through modern out-patient treatment. They enjoy legal protection, and respect for and exercise of their human rights are ensured. Health education is efficient and universal. The project to develop a Cuban vaccine against AIDS, now at the stage of clinical trials on human beings, is among the most advanced in the world.
Our experience, which we present humbly and modestly, serves as an example that this effort is feasible.
Cuba supports the convening of a special session to review the problem of HIV/AIDS in all its aspects in June 2001, which will allow the entire international community to join in the fight against this disease and during which various experiences and approaches can be shared on the social and economic aspects of the epidemic, access to medical care and treatment, in particular drugs, scientific research and the development of vaccines.
Our expectation is that this process will also reaffirm our Governments’ leading role in guiding national efforts to develop an agenda whose scope ranges from prevention, care and treatment to defining priority areas of aid, as well as recognition of the fact that the design of strategies to fight this disease must be tailored to the historical, socio-economic and cultural characteristics of our countries.
The Cuban delegation is pleased to co-sponsor the draft resolution contained in document A/55/L.13 before the General Assembly and intends to participate actively in the preparatory process and the special session.
Thank you very much