Ireland to Host Major International Conference on HIV/AIDS during Presidency in 2004
Mr. Tom Kitt T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, today announced that preparations were well advanced for a major international conference on HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia which the Irish EU Presidency will convene in Dublin in February 2004.
Speaking on World AIDS Day, Minister Kitt said:
“Today we think of the over 40 million people in the world who have contracted the HIV/AIDS virus. The epidemic is a threat to all countries in all regions of the world. While Africa is currently bearing the brunt of the disease, with over 29 million people infected, other regions have to be vigilant and to continue to fight against the spread of the epidemic.”
Recent statistics from UNAIDS clearly demonstrate that the European and Central Asian region, which includes 55 countries stretching from Ireland to the Central Asian States, continues to be threatened by HIV/AIDS. In some countries in the region, HIV infection rates are rising at an alarming level and pose an immediate threat to their economic and social systems. In other countries, a sense of complacency has developed and the fight against the disease is not as strong as it should be. There has been a sharp increase in sexually transmitted infections, particularly among young people.
On 23-24 February 2004, Ministers from across this region will meet in Dublin to discuss the fight against the epidemic in Europe and Central Asia. This will be the first such regional meeting on HIV/AIDS ever held by the 55 countries involved. The meeting is being organised by Development Cooperation Ireland with the close involvement of the Department of Health and Children.
In preparing the Conference, we are collaborating with UNAIDS, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the heads of each of these agencies will address the Conference. We have also confirmed participation from Commissioner David Byrne and from Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament. Key political figures from the region who are closely involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS such as the President of Portugal, Dr. Jorge Sampaio and the Prime Minister of Romania Adrian Nastase will deliver keynote addresses. European and Irish NGOs and people living with HIV/AIDS will also contribute to the Conference.
“I believe that the Dublin Conference will help push the issue of HIV/AIDS back up the European agenda. We need to work more closely together across the European region against this common threat. We have to stress the importance of political leadership in the fight against the epidemic and to educate and inform our young people about the facts of HIV/AIDS.”
The Dublin Conference is likely to be the largest single meeting held in Ireland during our forthcoming Presidency. I am determined that we should use it to assert our leadership role in the international fight against HIV/AIDS, an area where Development Cooperation Ireland has one of the most effective programmes of any donor.”
1 December 2003
Note to Editors:
The Conference “Breaking the barriers: partnership in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia” will take place in Dublin Castle on 23-24 February 2004. Ministers from 55 countries and the heads of a number of UN agencies will participate. The Conference is being hosted by Tom Kitt T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs.