Statement by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Cuba, Ambassador Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, at the UN General Assembly Plenary, under Agenda item 42: "Follow-up to the outcome of the twenty-sixth special session: implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS". New York, 8 November 2002.
Scarcely a year ago, we held an urgent special session of the General Assembly to confront the problem of HIV/AIDS in all its aspects and to coordinate and intensify national, regional and international activities to combat the pandemic in an integrated way. At that time, 36.1 million people were living with HIV/AIDS, 90 per cent of them in developing countries and 75 per cent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, 40 million people are infected with the virus. Of those, 3 million are children and 28.5 million live in sub-Saharan Africa.
It is true that HIV/AIDS affects all countries and peoples, rich and poor, without distinction, but it is also true that all do not have the same opportunities to attack and prevent the disease, and therein lies the difference. Today, millions of persons die of AIDS and other millions continue to be infected with the virus. More than 80 per cent of those deaths occur in Africa, where the majority of the millions affected by the epidemic have no access to the medicines or the therapies that are necessary to fight the disease, to prevent other opportunistic diseases and to relieve pain.
Developing countries - particularly those in Africa - have made a great effort and have created national anti-AIDS programmes. However, they cannot cope with the disease with the limited resources available to them - resources that they must use to pay their external debt or to achieve sustainable development. Today, Africa spends four times as much on servicing its external debt as on education and health combined.
World action against AIDS requires financial resources. According to the report of the Secretary-General (A/57/227 and Corr.1), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria - created as a mechanism for financing additional resources - has to date received more than $2 million in pledged contributions and has approved subsidies for programmes in low- and medium-income countries totalling $616 million for a five-year period. Obviously, the world response falls far short of the goal of $10 billion in annual expenditures by 2005.
International cooperation is imperative. Only if developing countries receive special treatment, if they are guaranteed market access, if the deterioration in the prices of basic commodities ends, if their external debt is forgiven, if they are guaranteed access to technology, if official development assistance increases and if the necessary financial resources are allocated without interference and conditions - only in this way will the necessary resources to fight this disease be released.
My country, despite the fact that it is poor and has been subjected to an iron-fisted blockade for more than four decades, is developing an anti-AIDS programme that ensures integrated health care for both carriers and the sick - free anti-retroviral therapy for all who are ill and centres of specialized care for the cases that require it - and is fighting tirelessly for broader social integration of the sick and of carriers, with full rights and without discrimination. Also guaranteed is access to 100 per cent certified blood donations for AIDS, hepatitis and other illnesses. Voluntary tests of all those who are pregnant have resulted in a zero mother-to-child transmission rate since 1997, and we are implementing a prevention and education strategy directed at vulnerable groups, at young people and at the entire population. We have the lowest prevalence rate in the Americas and one of the lowest in the world, at 0.03 per cent of those between 15 and 49 years of age.
Despite the fact that Cuba has no access to 50 per cent of the new medicines produced in the world because they are formulated by pharmaceutical companies and produced by medical equipment manufacturers in the United States and by their subsidiaries in third countries, we have contained the epidemic and have achieved a life expectancy of more than 76 years and an infant mortality rate of 6.2.
Cuba wishes to share its modest experience. I should like to reiterate my Government's offer to help the brotherly African peoples in the fight against the HIV pandemic by sending 4,000 doctors and health care personnel to create the necessary infrastructure in order to provide the population with essential medicines, prescriptions and follow-up. Those personnel could train a great number of specialists, nurses and medical technicians. Cuba also offers to provide the necessary teachers to create 20 medical schools, many of whom could be chosen from among the 2,359 Cuban doctors who today are providing their services in 17 African countries as part of an integrated health programme. In such schools, thousands of doctors could be trained each year in the countries that need them most.
I wish to reiterate our offer of doctors, teachers, psychologists and other specialists who will be required to advise and coordinate prevention campaigns against AIDS and other illnesses. We can supply free medical equipment and diagnostic kits needed for basic prevention programmes in 17 countries. We are offering free anti-retroviral therapy for 30,000 patients. All we need is for the industrialized countries to provide the minimum resources to make all of that possible.
Thank you very much