Remarks by Sandra L. Thurman
President, International AIDS Trust
World AIDS Day Event - November 29, 2001

Thank you Madame Ambassador for making today’s event possible – this wouldn’t have happened without you. I would also to thank all of our distinguished speakers for taking time out of their busy schedules to be here this morning – and all our colleagues and friends for joining with us.

The terrorist attack we experienced on September 11th was a terrible tragedy. One that we must continue to respond to with determination and resolve. But amidst this tragedy, we have rediscovered the power of a global community standing together against a common enemy.

The collective will and concerted action we have witnessed has inspired us, united us, and reminded us of the what can be accomplished when we join forces to save lives.

As we approach World AIDS Day -- we must now also dedicate ourselves to coming together to fight another common enemy -- and that enemy is AIDS.

Currently, 40 million men, women, and children are living with HIV – 28 million of whom live in Africa and 25 million have already died of AIDS – 20 million of whom were Africa. And yet the pandemic rages on -- in America, in Africa, and around the world.

More than one million people have become HIV+ and more than a half million have died of AIDS since September 11th alone. And increasingly – it is young people and women that are caught in the crossfire.

The global battle against AIDS desperately needs the sense of common purpose we have seen in recent days -- the immeasurable opportunity that comes from solidarity and a shared commitment to getting the job done.

The fight against AIDS isn’t someone else’s fight. It is our fight. It is every leader’s fight, it is every parent’s fight, it is every person’s fight. From the Congress to the corporate board room and from the church to the community -- it will take all of us pulling together to turn the tide.

If we want a safe and healthy future for our children and their children -- then we must join forces to fight AIDS now.

[By almost any measure, AIDS is one of the greatest global challenges of our day --- with far reaching ramifications for us all.

And while AIDS is the biggest health catastrophe since the bubonic plague -- it is much more than just a health crisis.

AIDS is a development crisis -- rolling back hard fought gains in infant mortality, life expectancy, and literacy and education.

AIDS is an economic crisis -- striking down workers in their prime, driving up the cost of doing business, and in hard hit countries, slashing GDP. By 2010, South Africa’s GDP will be 17% lower than it would have been without AIDS -- robbing the continent’s economic engine of $22 billion.

And AIDS is a security and stability threat --- not just to nation’s hardest hit, but to their neighbors and their allies.

President Bush has said that the best way to combat terrorism is by promoting prosperity around the world. And I could not agree more. We, in the US, can express our common humanity and increase our safety and security by reducing the suffering of the millions around the world who so desperately need our help.

While the challenge before us is great, it is not cause for hopelessness and resignation but for advocacy and real action.

In two decades of fighting AIDS, effective programs have been developed and important lessons learned. Across Africa, and around the world, spirited and selfless individuals have worked hard to decrease the rate of new HIV infections, to provide health care and hope to those who are sick, and to support children and families left behind.

And now, teenagers in South Africa are using street theater to teach their peers how to protect themselves from HIV. Midwives in Malawi are providing Neviropine to help HIV+ mothers deliver HIV- babies. Grandmothers in rural Uganda are mobilizing to care for children orphaned by AIDS. And village by village, and country by country -- in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds -- we are beginning to see impressive results.

But there is more -- much more -- that can be and must be done.

It is time to move our success to a scale that begins to match the magnitude of the AIDS challenge. We know the way. What we need is the will and the wallet to succeed. The question isn’t can we or cant we – but will we or wont we. And the answer must emphatically be – we will.

So as World AIDS Day approaches – again we gather, we remember, and we recommit ourselves to joining forces for an all out assault on AIDS – with the strategy, the leadership, and the resources needed to win.

And with the help of those in this room – we are well on our way.