United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS
Statement by Mr. Armen Muradyan, Minister of Healthcare of the Republic of Armenia:
The commitments undertaken by the Government of Armenia by joining the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and subsequent political declarations, have fundamentally changed the conceptual approaches to the AIDS response. The country has strengthened its political commitments on HIV/AIDS based on the fundamental understanding of special responsibility of the public sector and civil society for the future well-being of the population of Armenia.
The country has a tightly integrated system of services on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, maternal and child health, which ensures early diagnostics, provision of quality health care, the most effective treatment and other medical services for all those in need.
It should be noted that donors and international organizations play an essential role in achieving the success. Armenia is one of the recipient countries of the Global Fund and Russian Technical Assistance Programme for HIV/AIDS Control in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Under those programmes significant contributions have been made into the health care system of Armenia: new infrastructures have been created, access to HIV prevention and treatment services has been improved.
The measures on the AIDS Response are being taken in Armenia under the one agreed HIV/AIDS Action Framework, the National AIDS Programme, the technical assistance for which is provided by UNAIDS, WHO and other partners. The programmes implemented in the country with the external financial support are being evaluated highly, demonstrating performance rating greater than 100%.
The fact that HIV prevalence does not exceed 5% in any of the populations practicing risky behavior, and among pregnant women it is significantly lower than one percent, proves the adequacy and effectiveness of the taken preventive measures.
Armenia is a country with a low HIV prevalence rate, where adult HIV prevalence is only 0.2%. However, it should be noted that the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including Armenia, is now experiencing the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the world.
The spread of the HIV epidemic in our country has some particular features, of which the key one is the fact that the majority of the registered HIV cases were revealed among labour migrants infected abroad, where risky behavior, limited access to health care services, to prevention means and to HIV/AIDS information increase vulnerability of migrants to HIV in host countries, impact the rates of morbidity, late diagnostics and treatment effectiveness.
Armenia has gained considerable experience and has recorded a number of achievements in responding the AIDS epidemic at the interagency level, as well as in the field of HIV prevention, treatment and services integration.In addition, starting from 2001 no case of HIV transmission through donated blood has been registered in the country.
As an important accomplishment it should be noted that starting from 2007 no HIV case has been registered among the children born to HIV-positive mothers provided with ARV prophylaxis. Armenia reached the WHO indicators and targets for validating elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, based on which the country initiated the validation process. As a result of the WHO/UNAIDS experts mission, the country’s achievements in this area were approved by the WHO Global Committee. And today I am delighted to state that owing to our consistent efforts, Armenia has just become one of the first countries in the world, which received certificate on elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
We hope that the Global Fund through donor countries and donor organizations, UN agencies and other partners in the future will also play a significant role in supporting the implementation of the National AIDS Programme. Global solidarity and collaboration will be the cornerstone of our efforts to end the AIDS epidemic. I also hope that this high-level meeting will give a new impetus to the achievement of universal access for people living with HIV to the treatment, care and support, quality health care, making it possible to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
Reduction of donor funding, in particular of the Global Fund financing is the serious challenge today.
The Armenian Government has already increased the State Budget allocations for HIV/AIDS response, and committed itself to gradually increase them in the coming years. However that is not enough to cover all the needs, all the more - to end the AIDS epidemic.
Considering the existing programmatic gaps, trends of the epidemic, high burden of HIV and TB in the region, indicators of economic development and current financial situation, it may be stated that possibilities of complete transition from donor to the state funding are very limited in Armenia. Under the above-mentioned challenges the termination and even reduction of the Global Fund financing would threaten the sustainability of prevention and treatment programmes in resource-limited countries, would pose a real threat for the achievement of the Declaration’s ambitious goals in coming years, and would seriously affect the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts new commitments for countries to reach the seventeen goals, which will be the incentive for taking actions in the areas of great importance for humanity. Armenia has made significant progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. However, much remains to be done to solve the unresolved problems and address the issues that are on the Agenda.
Today, referring to a quote by Nelson Mandela, there was a question: what is worse, war or AIDS? How is this justice when an innocent child is born with an infection, and where is the justice when children who want to live and learn in their homeland are killed in bombardments? Where is justice when 90-year old senior citizens are murdered in their homes only because they wanted to spend their life in their homeland, where they belong to? I am talking about the atrocities that took place in Nagorno-Karabakh, two months ago. What is worse, ladies and gentlemen: the virus of AIDS or the virus of inhumanity and hatred, a virus that has infected even high level officials, a virus that turns a civilized man into a barbarian, to kill the elderly and children? This question is yet to be answered.
Today, Armenia has ended transmission of HIV from mother to child. The next generation may not have to know what HIV is and what war is, if we do not fail to answer this question today.
Thank you, Mr.President.