Speech/statement | Date: 2016-12-01 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
State Secretary Laila Bokhari's statement at the World Aids Day.
Today, we stand in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV, and remember the 35 million who have died from Aids-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported.
Today, we mobilize behind the UNaids "hands up for #HIVprevention" campaign, which explores different aspects of HIV prevention, and how they relate to specific groups of people.
HIV prevention efforts must be reinvigorated if we are to stay on the Fast-Track to ending the Aids epidemic by 2030.
I have chosen "education for all" as my "hands up".
Today we also mobilize behind the Norwegian campaign to "break the silence" ("bryt tausheten"). In Norway, we don't talk much about HIV anymore. People know less about the epidemic than a few years ago. This silence is threatening our global solidarity, and is making it more difficult for those in Norway living with HIV.
But the world has committed to end the Aids epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
We are seeing that countries are getting on the Fast-Track. More than 18 million people are on life-saving HIV treatment, and more countries are on track to eliminate HIV transmission from mother to child.
We are winning against the Aids epidemic, but the progress is uneven, and we must not be complacent.
The number of new HIV infections is not declining among adults, and young women remain particularly at risk of becoming HIV-infected:
Girls in sub-Saharan Africa, are facing a triple threat: a high risk of HIV infection, low rates of HIV testing, and poor adherence to HIV treatment.
Coinfections of people living with HIV, such as tuberculosis (TB), cervical cancer and hepatitis C, are threatening our global targets. Prison populations, men who have sex with men, people who sell sex, and injecting drug users are still facing high risks because of poor or lacking prevention and harm reduction work.
This means that "taking Aids out of isolation" remains an imperative if we are to achieve our target. Inter sectoral partnerships will be key to ensure we leave no one behind.
The Norwegian government's two main development policy priorities are education and global health. The Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescent's Health is our overarching strategy. We have doubled Norway's aid budget for education, and increased the already substantial global health budget. We have strong and active commitment from the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.
The UNaids strategy prescribes various interventions that reduce marginalization, promote economic empowerment of girls, support migrant and displaced populations, eliminate violence and gender inequality, and ensure an enabling legal and law enforcement environment for young women and key populations.
Completion of secondary education is one such structural intervention, that can foster knowledge, influence sexual behaviour, affect social networks and contribute to improved socioeconomic status.
Benefits of formal schooling for HIV prevention are shown to be strongest for women. Interventions that increase enrolment, retention and learning for girls, reduce the risk that women will acquire HIV infection.
Schools are also the most important arena for comprehensive sexuality education, which provides adolescents and young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to make conscious, healthy and respectful choices about relationships and sexuality.
The HIV-related effects of these measures come in addition to the empowerment of adolescent girls and young women that comes with education and economic independence.
Poor access to education, low levels of economic independence and intimate partner violence erode the ability of young women to negotiate safer sex and retain control of their bodies.
This month, UNaids is challenging us to tailor our response to a life-cycle approach to HIV.
We need to find solutions for everyone at every stage of life. Risks and challenges change as people go through life, highlighting the need to adapt HIV prevention and treatment strategies from birth to old age.
Our global achievements so far give us hope for the future, but we must not be complacent. We cannot stop now. This is the time to move forward, across all sectors, to ensure that all children start their lives free from HIV, that young girls and boys, and adults grow up and stay free from HIV, and that treatment becomes more accessible so that everyone stays Aids-free.
Thank you for your attention!